A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Life

A Wish for the Second Coming

SadJesus

Image manipulation by Rosie (orig. photog. unknown)

I wish he’d come back, this savior of yours
This perfect being you’ve been telling me about since I can remember
Who slept and ate with the criminals and outcasts you despise.
I wish I could summon him as easily as goblins
This being of light and omnipotence
The one whose love outshines all but
whose judgement we’re meant to fear
(you don’t, do you?)
I wish he’d return and tell us whether he likes what he sees
And I wonder whether those who hide behind his name
will hide from his gaze.
I hope you don’t.
I want to see your faces when he says,
“You’ve forgotten everything I taught you.”

 


 

I am not a Christian, but everything I’ve ever learned about the man named Jesus tells me he would weep bitter tears if he knew what horrors humans wreak in his name. The hypocrisy of the people I see calling others “hateful” for calling out their hate, calling others “intolerant” because they won’t tolerate words and actions that hurt people who are already hurting…I want the power to put these people in a room with the man they uphold as their guiding star and I want to see them quiver and sob before him when he looks them in the eye and says “What the ACTUAL fuck.”

So I wrote a poem. Thanks for reading. Making art is one way we get through this alive.

Love,
Rosie

PS: Bonus points if the line about goblins…well, you know.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Self-Care Bingo—Play With Yourself for Better Health!

I don’t know about you, I have a hell of a time remembering to practice self-care, and I’ve heard the same from a lot of the people I interact with online. Many of us spend a lot of time and energy online fighting for causes we care about at the expense of our mental and physical health and while we know that we need to pause and do things that are just for us—things like social media breaks, playing with the dog, listening to music, or just DRINKING SOME DAMNED WATER—it can be really hard to do so.

That’s why I created SELF-CARE BINGO!

SCB2

New and improved!

It’s like an act of self-care I can share with all of you. Yay!

The symbols are intended as prompts. For example, I live in Seattle, so there are many days (weeks, months) when getting sunshine is just not in the cards, but I can get outside and breathe some fresh air or use my little full-spectrum light thingy. Not into knitting? Do the craft you love. Already hugged your dog today? Tickle your cat or throw a ball for your ferret. The possibilities are endless!

I’ve got my SCB card printed out and ready to mark up even as I type this. See?

Proof!

Proof!

Let’s do some self-care, people.


Note: The SCB card above is a new and improved version updated post publication. You can find the old one here and a safe-for-work version here.

PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


My Birthday Wish

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.57.25 AMIn a few days, I will celebrate my 50th year on this planet. I haven’t done as much as I guess I hoped I would by now. I have, on the other hand, survived a lot. And that’s why it’s especially important to me to make a big deal out of this nice, round number. It reminds me that I’ve reached an age my depression and anxiety made me fear I’d never see. It is a way of giving myself some credit for making it through and not giving up—for continuing to strive for wellness and to reach for a place where I will once again feel satisfaction with the way I am using the days I have on the earth. I’m not there yet, but I know that I deserve that, so I’m celebrating the fact that I can celebrate myself. And not insignificantly, I’m celebrating the fact that two years after a major trauma, I am able to celebrate my birthday again. This time of year will likely carry some weight of grief for some years, but I am taking this day back.

My birthday wish is honestly too big for words to encompass. The only word that remotely comes close to the thing I would most like to see in this world is LOVE. I have no wish for romantic love in my life—another thing to celebrate, I suppose, since every year up until age 41, I wished for that on every star and birthday candle and dandelion seed and though it was trauma that brought me to this place, I can focus my wishes elsewhere. The love I’m talking about is a more universal thing: THE thing that so many prophets and philosophers and poets have been trying to tell us all along. The thing that is very likely our only hope.

lovecropped

Big, right? It feels unattainable, but I don’t think it is. I believe that if we keep this word in our minds like a mantra, then it can’t help but make bad situations better. So my wish is that everyone reading this remember that word when anger and frustration flares up, not as a reminder to love your enemies necessarily, just as a reminder of what’s inside you that needs expressing out into the world and of what’s important—really important.

This is not the post I set out to write. I came here (inspired by a friend—thanks Britni!) to tell you about a few people and organizations I care about and suggest that you consider them in your holiday giving. But I asked myself what I truly wished for and wanted to answer authentically, so here we are, as close as I could come to putting my wish in a word: LOVE. A big wish, but a small ask. Keep it in your mind and in your heart.

AND if you could show some love to these people and organizations, I would be grateful. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and I’ll thank you publicly. (Do let me know if you don’t want that!) Give whatever you can afford, though I do like the numbers $5 and $50, for some reason. And if you can’t give, please consider sharing this post.

egarnerfamilyEric Garner Family

Eric Garner’s family lost a father and a husband when a police officer used an illegal chokehold, killing Garner on video as he told officers again and again, “I can’t breathe.” The Garner family’s lives have been shattered.  You can help ease the financial burden on the family by donating to this fundraiser (I have committed to $5 a month for 2015):

Donate to Eric Garner Family


Ferguson Organizers Johnetta Elzie & DeRay McKesson

Johnetta and DeRay are Ferguson organizers, publishers of the Ferguson newsletter, and all-around badasses. You can help them stay fed and housed and support the work they do by donating to their PayPal account.

Donate to Ferguson Organizers


Brianna Wu is Making Games

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 9.28.42 AMBrianna Wu is one of several women in the video games industry that has been targeted for relentless harassment by the scum that is GamerGate (all together now: “Actually, it’s about ethics in video games journalism!”). From her Patreon page:

I got into videogames to make video games – but right now the majority of my workweek is wasted on fending off BS from people harassing me.

Wu goes on to describe some of this harassment, which continues to be brutal. These people used her dead dog as a prop with which to torture her and her husband, Frank Wu. Brianna Wu is asking for help:

If you appreciate what I do, please chip in so I can hire some help with the Women in Tech advocacy I do. I need someone to help me with the medial parts of dealing with my attackers so I can focus on my work, making and shipping games.

Donate to Brianna Wu


Joyful Heart Foundation

*Trigger Warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault*

As some of you know, I’m pursuing closure in a thirty-year-old rape case. I have contacted a number of organizations that purport to help people like me, and Joyful Heart Foundation is the only one that reached out and offered to speak with me, hear my story, and provide knowledge and assistance as I navigate the legal system. I’m so grateful for that support.

Joyful Heart began as a dream of helping sexual assault survivors heal and reclaim a sense of hope, possibility and joy in their lives. We have evolved into a national organization that is paving the way for integrating holistic approaches in treating trauma, transforming the way people think about, talk about and behave around the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and advancing public policies to ensure justice for survivors.”

Donate to Joyful Heart Foundation


Thanks for reading and helping me celebrate my 50th birthday.

Love,

Rosie


Dear John: My 20-Year Grudge Against TMBG’s John Flansburgh

Aw, but he likes cats...

Aw, but he likes cats… 

Dear John,

It was 1994 or so, spring maybe, and I was on my way to work at Electronic Arts in San Mateo, CA. I must have been listening to the rock station rather than my usual NPR, because the dude on the radio announced that They Might Be Giants—one of my very favorite bands of all time—was giving a free concert that day in Golden Gate Park in nearby San Francisco.

It wasn’t even a question. I got to work, made my apologies, and drove to my ten-year-old daughter’s school, signing her out for the day so she could see TMBG live.

Arriving at the park, we spotted you, Big John—John Flansburgh—right away. You stood a few yards away from a rope line near the stage talking with some guy. My daughter was utterly beside herself. She stood at that rope line waving, hoping to catch your eye. She waved and waved and I stood there with her watching as you finally…well, “condescended” is a kind word. You…condescended to wave to her, which sent her over the moon. She loved the concert. She had a great day.

Here’s what I saw: My little girl standing there waving, smiling, thrilled to see you and you, John, turning to us with a look on your face that said, “I can’t fucking BELIEVE I have to do this,” an eye-roll that most certainly offered you a view of your own BRAIN, and a wave that couldn’t have been more exaggerated if you’d thrown your shoulder out of socket and could not possibly have communicated more disdain for this tiny fan.

My daughter turns 33 next year. She rolls her eyes at me when I tell this story. She was thrilled that you waved at her. She was too young then to understand that you were not saying hello but saying, “Jesus, kid, would you fuck off, already?” And so, it didn’t hurt her the way it hurt me.

20 years later, telling this story to someone I know, I realize that it still hurts a lot.

I have friends who tease me about my “grudge.” But dude, you were mean to a kid. My kid. That’s not the kind of thing a mother gets over. And also? I loved your fucking band. I bought every album and went to every show I could. I took my child out of school to see you that day because she loved you, too, and I thought it would be a good experience for her. Thankfully, it was. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt by your behavior. But she could have been, and I think about other kids who came to see you. Were you mean to them, too?

I like to think that this was a one-time thing. I like to think that you later realized what a jackass you’d been and felt so guilty that you started making kids’ records to atone for your behavior that day. I know that’s ridiculous, but that little fantasy has given me some measure of comfort.

The more likely truth is that you were probably just exactly the egotistical jackass you seemed to be. I wonder if you still are.

My daughter’s love for music, partly fueled by listening to your records, grew into a talent. She’s an amazing singer and songwriter, and she and I were in a band together for a few years. This month we’ll sing together at my 50th birthday party.

Though you kinda broke my heart that day in 1994, I’m just glad you didn’t break hers.

All of this illustrates a few things: my ability to hold a grudge for 20 years; your capacity for being an utter dickwad to fans; the fallibility of our heroes and our tendency to put humans on pedestals…but I guess more than anything it’s about a mother’s love for her child.

You don’t fucking mess with my kid.

I have failed her in so many ways, so maybe telling stories like this one (you’re not the only person I’m still angry with over their treatment of her, in case that makes you feel any better) is just my way of proving to myself that despite all of my failures as a mother, I am a mother who loves her child fiercely.

Dear John: you owe my daughter an apology. I owe her a few, too, but that’s between us. If you and I ever meet, I’ll tell you this story and ask you to extend that apology. I don’t really expect that you’ll comply, but I’d do anything for my kid. Even write a silly blog post about a grudge I’ve been holding for two decades.


Trigger Warnings: It’s About Empathy and Choice

Trigger warning for multiple topics*.
EMPATHYsmI am super irritated that I have to write this. That I feel like I have to write it today, right now, because not only did a concern-trolling article come out in the New Republic a couple of days ago, but people were already complaining about trigger warnings as though they were some kind of censorship (some even using the word). As though the people using or benefiting from them were proposing banning words or ideas. As though we want our world scrubbed clean of all references to traumatic topics. This is not remotely the case, and I feel the need to clarify for anyone who’s listening and isn’t sure they get it. 

What’s a trigger warning? The top Urban Dictionary entry does a fairly good job of defining them:

Used to alert people when an internet post, book, article, picture, video, audio clip, or some other media could potentially cause extremely negative reactions (such as post-traumatic flashbacks or self-harm) due to its content. Sometimes abbreviated as “TW.”

Trigger Warning for sexual violence

The New Republic article adopts a slippery-slope argument, pointing out among other things that UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Student Senate has passed a proposal, now presumably before university officials, recommending required warnings before graphic material. The author doesn’t seem curious about how this might help people. In fact she states quite plainly that it doesn’t:

As a means of navigating the Internet, or setting the tone for academic discussion, the trigger warning is unhelpful. … There is no rational basis for applying warnings because there is no objective measure of words’ potential harm.Of course, words can inspire intense reactions, but they have no intrinsic danger. Two people who have endured similarly painful experiences, from rape to war, can read the same material and respond in wholly different ways.

This tells me that the author a) has missed the point entirely and b) didn’t bother to speak to anyone who uses or benefits from trigger warnings (she certainly doesn’t quote any). If she had spoken to some of us, she might understand that trigger warnings are actually very helpful to trauma survivors. They allow us to choose when and how we engage with content so we can do so in a way that results in less harm. It doesn’t mean we won’t view the content. It just means we have a choice—that it doesn’t hit us like a slap in the face and possibly to our great detriment. But people who pooh-pooh trigger warnings often (though not always if they take the time to listen) seem unconcerned with the everyday battles survivors face on the Internet. In fact, like the author of the NS article (quoted again below), some are now wringing their hands over how this practice is apparently harming us as a society and will lead to trigger warnings on cereal boxes and shit:

What began as a way of moderating Internet forums for the vulnerable and mentally ill now threatens to define public discussion both online and off. The trigger warning signals … a wider cultural hypersensitivity to harm and a paranoia about giving offense. And yet, for all the debate about the warnings on campuses and on the Internet, few are grappling with the ramifications for society as a whole.

… it’s only a matter of time before warnings are demanded for other grade levels … it’s not inconceivable that they’ll appear at the beginning of film screenings and at the entrance to art exhibits. Will newspapers start applying warnings to articles about rape, murder, and war? Could they even become a regular feature of speech? “I was walking down Main Street last night when—trigger warning—I saw an elderly woman get mugged.”

Trigger warnings aren’t about not giving offense. They’re about taking the time to consider how material might affect survivors of trauma (empathy) and allowing them to a) brace themselves emotionally for the material or b) skip it entirely (choice). They serve as a helpful guide for people who might want or need to prepare for—or choose not to experience—content that might trigger reactions that they aren’t ready to deal with right now—reactions that can range from mild discomfort (which is what most people who have a problem with TWs seem to assume we’re talking about) to outright panic to self-harm. In an age when most of us are suffering from information overload, it’s about giving people more awareness of possible emotional landmines so they can make informed choices as they navigate their day. Believe me, we’re going to encounter plenty difficult material without the benefit of a trigger warning. We’re not living in a sterilized environment. But we do appreciate a heads-up when something might reopen our wounds. To me, it doesn’t seem like much to ask, and it doesn’t cost me anything to include trigger warnings on my content.

As yet, no one is obligated to provide trigger warnings. It’s something we do out of consideration for those who might appreciate and benefit from it. A simple [TW] before a tweet about a difficult topic gives readers a chance to steel their gut or skip it if they don’t feel like dealing with hard stuff just now. Ever read or watched something that made you cry at work? If so, you might know the feeling of wishing you’d waited until later. Have you ever said something insensitive in front of someone who was hurt by your words and wished you hadn’t opened your mouth? Would you knowingly walk through the world causing people to feel either of those ways…or much worse?

No, the world cannot and should not be free of all references to rape, abuse, domestic violence, racism, slut-shaming, fat-shaming, suicide, war…but knowing what we’re in for allows us to reduce emotional stress and strife in an environment that—for at least some of us—feels like a barrage of those things on a fairly constant basis.

It’s about self-care, and those who think trigger warnings are unnecessary or asking too much are basically saying that they don’t care whether we’re able to practice self care, or whether being blind-sided by something might cause us to engage in self-harm or flip a switch in our brains and trigger anxiety that can last for weeks (or months and require medication or even hospitalization to overcome)…this is what we’re talking about here, folks. We’re talking about caring enough about survivors of trauma that we allow them to choose. The National Institute of Health estimates that over ten million people suffer from PTSD in the United States alone. We’re talking about avoiding doing or saying something carelessly that might cause real harm to people who are already struggling every single day.

Here’s where the concern-trolling really gets going:

Issuing caution on the basis of potential harm or insult doesn’t help us negotiate our reactions; it makes our dealings with others more fraught. As Breslin pointed out, trigger warnings can have the opposite of their intended effect, luring in sensitive people (and perhaps connoisseurs of graphic content, too). More importantly, they reinforce the fear of words…

*scraaaaatch*

Go read the article if you want. I’m done.

Yes, there is a good chance that trigger warnings will rise in popularity as people become more aware of why they are a thoughtful thing to do. And people who think they’re useless will continue to wonder “What’s next? A trigger warning because you don’t like the brand of beer I drink?” And I will shake my head and wonder why it’s so difficult for them to consider the lives of others—lives which are clearly quite different from theirs when their reaction to our trauma is “This is the world. Deal with it.”

Well, this is empathy, and it’s what allows people to care for each other and not hurt each other. I recommend that everyone take a spoonful with their tea in the morning and see if your day and that of everyone you interact with doesn’t get just a bit better. At the very least, maybe you’ll cause less harm.

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 10.58.17 AMSpeaking of lack of empathy, here’s what Dan Savage had to say about the NR article:

Any article in which I’m cited as triggering needs to have a trigger warning. Because that totally triggers me.

Way to be an insensitive fuckwad, Dan. High five.

I mean seriously: aside from some people’s snide reaction to the idea that some people need to be a bit more gentle with themselves than others, what is the problem with a warning before a particularly graphic film or tv show (many of which already feature them and have since I was a child)? What is the cost? Do we really think this is going to lead to everyone walking around in full-body armor and darkened goggles that filter out anything objectionable? Why don’t we start by worrying about survivors and concern ourselves with the Great Trigger Warning Dystopia later? Because at this point it sounds to me like some people are just irritated by other people’s sensitivities, and to that I say, get out into the world and meet some people whose lives are completely different from yours. Listen to what they have to say. That’s where your full dose of understanding will come from.

I’ll close with a quote from the always-amazing Anne Theriault of The Belle Jar:

Life is an ongoing exercise in empathy. As a human being, your job should be constantly learning how to make your own way in this world while causing as little harm as possible.  Which is why I’m ultimately baffled when people wonder aloud if they’re supposed to look at everything critically and worry about its potential to harm others. Because yes. Yes, that is exactly what you are supposed to do.

tortoise

Me empathizing with a baby tortoise, in case that’s helpful.

*See how easy that was?

UPDATE: People have argued here and elsewhere that trigger warnings might be harmful to someone who really ought to face their triggers as part of recovery. This argument assumes that a) we are all in the same place in our recovery and b) we all need the same thing with regard to our recovery. It seems to me that people making this argument are telling people who appreciate trigger warnings that they (the arguers) know better what we (the triggered) need than we do. While I think these people’s intentions are in some cases good, I strongly disagree and I ask these folks to examine their own privilege in making these assumptions for others.


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Related:


An Open Letter to B

Dear B,

Today will be a crying day. I can’t always tell when I wake up, but when I wake up and burst into tears and cry until snot runs down my face, that’s a sure sign. Last night I fell asleep acknowledging that there’s a part of me still waiting for her baby to come back, and this morning I dreamed that I followed you and your girlfriend around like K did when we were first together, trying to give you gifts and be affectionate while you mostly ignored me.

Waking up my first thought as the tears came was “But I don’t want to.” I’m still trying to work out what that means. Don’t want to be over you? Don’t want to walk away like I did at the end of my dream? None of this makes sense because what I want more than almost anything in the world is to not feel anything where you’re concerned. Anger protected me for a lot of last year but as it subsided—as my brain started forgetting to hate you—I began to remember who you used to be to me: not a villain but the man I loved.

You’ve done a lot of crappy things. First there is the original betrayal—it seems so wrong that I can sum it up in three words like that when a) it went on for so long and piled betrayal upon betrayal and b) it has left me more broken than anything that came before including rapes and beatings I wasn’t sure I’d survive. Telling me over and over again via email about your new love and your bullshit philosophical “types of love” and how I fit into this one box over here, but that one didn’t really count, and your wishes for multiple lovers in the future and your hope that she would accept that, as though that information could possibly help me heal. Then ignoring me on our anniversary after I told you how hard just the days leading up to it were and how I dreaded it. Then promising to leave me alone about the house for six months and then sic’ing your lawyers on me after only three. These are the bigger ones, but once in a while I realize that some part of me still feels that your worst crime was not loving me—not loving us—enough to stay and try to fix it. The absolute worst thing about this for me is that you don’t love me.

For the past 14 months I have been in a state of illness. For several weeks I could barely get off the couch. It was four months before I felt ready to move back to our bedroom and since I did, I’ve barely left it. I am unable to earn a living because depression keeps me from working more than a few hours a day for a few weeks at a time (which means I can get through a book editing project, but a full-time job feels out of the question). I am fighting a constant, uphill battle just to get back to the level of depression I occupied when you were still here. For the past six months I have been largely unable to blog. It’s like I’ve run out of things to say and confidence in my ability to say them.

J told me that you said your actions were hurtful. They weren’t just hurtful—they were harmful. Nothing in my life has ever left me this broken. She said you mourn the loss of your friend. My first thought, and what I said to her, was this:

“He killed his friend. And he killed mine. I will never, ever be the same person I was when I met him. I will never start a relationship with that trust. 8 years ago today I met the man who would murder the person I was that day.”

I know you’ve read things I’ve written before and come away thinking that I hated you. I have tried to, but I don’t. The honest truth—and the most excruciating thing I have to accept on days like this—is that I still love you. And accepting that, it takes everything I have not to hate myself. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year it’s to be gentle with me because I have been on the edge and I know what it feels like to want to slip over and lose myself. I can’t let that happen.

Now you see where I still am 14 months after you left and a year and ten days after we last spoke. I am still crying over you. I am still dreaming about you. I am still waiting for you to come back to me. And I am still agonizing over all of these things and trying not to despise myself. The best thing my anger did was to protect me from that hope and I really wish I still had it. Since I don’t, I’m just trying to get through the time it will take for the hope and love to fade away. I really thought a year would be enough.

I painted this for you back in the early days. For me it expressed what I thought was happening between us: something so big and important that it threatened to burst out of the confines of this mortal existence.

Art by Rosie

Art by Rosie

Now I realize that it was big and important, just not in the way I thought. Now I see the flaws in a painting I once thought beautiful and I look for meaning in them. Where is the line that shows you falling out of love? Where is the one that predicts your betrayal? Which lines represent not love but pain? Which ones are the signs I should have seen that would have allowed me to prevent us from falling apart?

So, this is the state of things. These are some of the things you need to know before you make any attempt at another apology. I wish I could tell you everything. I wish that I could make you experience what I have experienced this past year. I want you to know what it is to be the one left behind instead of the one always leaving and leaving destroyed lives behind you. I wish I could communicate the sadness I’ve felt watching friends and even my family members choose to remain in contact with you even when they know how much it hurts me. I want you to feel what I have felt and know the pain that your choices—and complete lack of empathy for me—have caused. And I want to understand, I think, but maybe I don’t because every time you’ve tried to explain you’ve only caused me more pain. What I really want is for things to be ok, and on days like this it’s hard to believe they ever will be again.

Sincerely,

Me


I’m Not as Strong as You Think I Am

rosie

(art by Norman Rockwell)

Trigger Warning: Violence Against Women

Hi. My name is Rosie. And I’m a persona.

(Hi, Rosie!)

I exist to protect the person who hides behind me. I allow her to say things she has trouble saying with her real mouth, but I am her True Voice. Through me, the person who writes this blog has found a way to talk about her life and what it’s like to be a woman in what is still very much a man’s world in so many ways.

I can be a bit rough around the edges. Ranty, sweary, short-of-temper, unlikely to take crap. She’s like that too, but my knob is tuned way higher than hers. And I think that sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that the fact that she and I have strong opinions about things and fight for what we believe in means we’re super tough and impervious to harm. I think sometimes people have the impression we’re so sure of ourselves—this real-life-person and I, her avatar—so confident and secure, that words, judgment, implications that we are what’s wrong with feminism, that we see problems where none exist, that we’re too angry and intense and that we spend our energies on all the wrong things…that none of this gets through the armor of this persona and reaches the real person.

But she’s in there, and she’s tired and sad and it’s taking everything I’ve got to help her find the words to admit it. She has learned that life is different now and unless she’s willing to give up on the dream of making positive change, she’s going to have to get used to encountering resistance not just from the faceless Internet, but from friends and allies.

She’s sad and tired and sometimes she feels like giving up, but she’s got hope and she clings to it and it’s what gives me whatever power I’ve got to pull out words when all she’s got are tears. Hope that all this will end up being worthwhile (and faith that it must), and that those friends and allies who doubt and resist will let down their guard and trust that when she says “this hurts me” it does. Hope that the fact that she hurts is enough to make a thing—or even a movement—important enough to them that they won’t dismiss it out of hand or imply that she’s not seeing clearly or that she’s “too angry.” Hope that if they disagree, they’ll remember that it’s not philosophy to her—that it’s something she feels deeply.

Hi. I’m Rosie. And I’m here to tell you that activism isn’t fun. It can be very, very rewarding, but when one of us launches a campaign like the one I helped launched yesterday, we’re putting ourselves out there to be criticized by the whole entire Internet, and if you think I haven’t spent the last 24 hours second-guessing myself, alternately shaking with rage and crying tears of frustration, then you think I’m a lot stronger than I really am. I’ve been told I’m part of the problem and that my perceptions are flawed, that I’m wasting my time, and that I’m aggressive. None of these are firsts, but when every ping from your blog and social media elicits a moment of panic, you know you’re stressed. And when some of the doubt comes from within the tent, that’s particularly hard to take—but it happens every single time. And while it’s certainly healthy to entertain differing points of view, by the time I’ve gone all-in on a campaign like this, I’ve gone over and over it and I know how I feel about it, so the second-guessing is just a mind-game I play with myself. I’m in no doubt, for example, of how I feel about that hotel ad.

And that’s what I left out of my post yesterday: Me. Why this campaign is important to me personally.

When I was 20, the man I was with beat the shit out of me and promised me I would not live through the night. He smacked me around first, then gouged my eyes with his fingers (leaving scars I still see when I look at a blank wall), cut my face with a putty knife, then threw me across the room. Somewhere in there he told me he was going to bury me in a field where no one would find me. About half this he did in front of my two-year-old daughter. That’s just one of my stories of violence, but it’s the one that comes up like bile when I see this image.

A reader yesterday said the ad in question looked like slapstick to him. Someone else said she looked like she was just lying there—no violence implied. Me? At a gut level, without any analysis, I see a dead woman lying on concrete (I get “alley” or “parking lot”) at a glance. When I see this image, I see her story. The story this image tells me is of a woman to whom violence has been done (she didn’t throw that suitcase at herself) and who has been left for dead on a stained concrete floor. On closer inspection, she’s sprawled in a decidedly lifeless way (I now have a copy of the magazine and it looks like she’s in a parking garage—there are oil stains), her hand palm-up. She’s certainly not conscious—not struggling to get up under the weight of the heavy suitcase she accidentally dropped on herself. In fact, to me, it doesn’t look like she’s getting up at all.

And when I see that, I think of all the women who—like me—have had violence done to them but who—unlike me—did not survive it. And I feel sick. And I feel like this is a crass fucking way to sell a product. But at the heart of it, this image causes me pain and given the response I’ve received privately, on the post, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments section of the petition, I’m not alone.

Hi. My name is Rosie. And I’m not as strong as you may think I am. But I’m not alone. For that, I’m more grateful than I can say.


Related

The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women (makemeasammich.org)


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


It’s Not a “Mistake” If You Plan It

Sad woman

(original image via fotolia.com)

I’m still thinking about cheating and how we, as a society, accept it as just something that happens. I think this is a huge problem for a number of reasons, not least because it gives the perpetrators a pass for their damaging behavior and leaves survivors feeling as though the crime committed against them—though it leaves them as broken and requires as much healing as many other types of abuse*—just doesn’t count.

Today I imagined, as I have been a lot lately, what might happen if I ran into the ex in a public place. I imagined a dialog wherein I told him to leave and he refused, telling me that he’d made a mistake but that didn’t give me a right to…whatever, that’s as far as I got before the following list began forming in my mind. It’s a response to the ghost of the ex and anyone else who wants to write this behavior off as a simple “mistake” to be forgiven and forgotten.

  • A mistake is typing “ass” instead of “ask.”
  • A mistake is putting your shoes on the wrong feet.
  • A mistake is getting into a car accident when you did everything you could to prevent it.
  • A mistake is an impulsive kiss or even a one-night stand.
  • A mistake is something you do by accident in a moment of distraction or thoughtlessness or passion and then you stop and say, “Whoa. That was wrong. I’m not going to do that again.”
  • When you are in a committed relationship and you purposely seek out a person outside the relationship for sex unbeknownst to your partner, that is not an accident. That’s not an impulsive action that takes place in an instant. That’s not a “mistake.”
  • When you set out to deceive your partner on a daily basis, lying to her multiple times a day for months about where you are, making up elaborate stories about searching all over town for the right “surprise” when you’re actually having sex with your secret lover, that’s not a regretful misstep. That’s not just something that happens. That’s not a “mistake.”

This was not a mistake. This was a campaign of deception and betrayal.

Let me tell you about mistakes I’ve made:

  • Spending seven years with someone because you believe what they tell you is true: that was a mistake.
  • Wanting so badly to believe that someone loved me that I ignored the signs that he was not capable of it: that was a mistake.
  • Trying to remain friends with the man who perpetrated what I have come to think of as abuse* against me: that was a mistake.
  • Believing that he was even capable of being my friend after not only what he did, but the way he continued to treat me after the fact: that was a mistake.
  • Believing that he would figure out how badly he’d fucked up and come back and do the work to make things right: that was a mistake.

These last few are mistakes because they held me back from healing. Who knows where I’d be now if I’d written him off in December, when I first tried to, rather than in February when I finally felt ready to?

Yeah, I know, it is what it is. But I’ve made my point: mistakes are not things you plan and execute like a serial killer. Mistakes are forgivable. Crimes like the ones this man perpetrated require more than forgiveness: they require redemption, and redemption requires sacrifice from the one hoping to be redeemed. It’s not something I can offer him—it’s something he has to want and work for and make happen for himself.

And maybe that’s one reason I’m having such a hard time with forgiveness—maybe it can’t happen without redemption. Or maybe I’m just not ready.

Maybe I never will be.


*I know, my use of the “A” word is a sticky issue for some. I am a survivor of many types of abuse and I don’t use the term lightly. I’m going to be writing more about it soon, but in the meantime, if it’s bothering you, ask yourself why. Ask yourself about power relationships and intent and consequences and damage. For some background, read this. We’ll talk more soon.


Related:

Unexpected Bullshit

And everything here.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Violations and Villains and Apologists. Oh My.

Image via morgueFile.

Image via morgueFile.

“Violation” is a word that keeps coming up for me around dealing with betrayal. When you secretly bring a third person into a committed two-person relationship, you violate not only loyalty and trust, but you eliminate informed consent. Would I have consented to sex with my ex if I’d known he was having sex with someone else? Absolutely not.

My ex created a situation where any intimacy between us happened essentially without my informed consent. I consented to intimacy with a person who had committed to a monogamous relationship with me. I did not consent to share my body with someone who was sharing his body with another person while pretending I was the only one. So, in effect, he did not have my consent. He removed my ability to consent.

Not that we were having much sex. As I’ve said before, he told me he lacked drive. I got complacent. He went out and got laid. But at the time I learned of the affair he’d been having for months, he was actively trying to “work on our intimacy” which means he was actively working on having more sex with me while he was having sex with someone else in secret. The sex we were having, then, was not entirely consensual, was it?

So yeah, the more time passes, the more grave his crimes seem to me, and the less able I feel to forgive him. The more I process, the more I realize that what he did—that what people do when they perpetrate this violation upon one another—was abuse. To me, he is a villain. And that means that when I encounter people who tell me that they want to be my friend, but that want to be his friend too, and they hope I understand, I don’t. I just can’t.

I’ve tried. I really, truly have. I’ve done my best not to feel resentful, but the resentment is there and I’m starting to realize it’s there for a reason.

When I was raped at 12 years old, my neighborhood split down the middle. There was the “Me” camp: the people who believed me when I said I’d been raped, and there was the “him” camp: the people who just couldn’t believe that a guy they considered a friend could possibly be a rapist.

When an ex beat the crap out of me and I ran away to my dad’s place halfway across the country, my dad joked that I’d probably pissed him off and when the guy called, he put me on the phone so I could, you know, face the music and resolve things. A few days later—before I really knew what happened—I was back with my abuser.

A while back Sid wrote a story about how it felt when one of our friends dropped my ex from Facebook while maintaining a friendship with her abuser–a guy whose abuse had never turned physical and so even she hesitated to use the “A” word.

Here’s an “A” word for you: Apologism. It’s what half my neighborhood engaged in when I was raped. It’s how my dad dealt with the fact that the guy who beat me up was a lot like him. It’s what our friend did when she told Sid her abuser wasn’t really like that.

It’s what people do when they decide that a person who abuses other people is essentially just a good guy who made a mistake (or a series of them—hey, he had a tough childhood) and let him off the hook for bad behavior. And more and more often I find myself asking why it is that people insist on apologizing for my ex simply by reminding me that they feel they must maintain friendships with both of us.

Of course, I have no way of knowing what sort of consequences my ex may have been subjected to at the hands of our mutual friends. But I do know that I’m aware of no consequences dire enough to satisfy me, and he has certainly made no amends where I’m concerned (except to throw some money at the situation). And some of our friends were his friends first–I know that some will feel the need to maintain loyalty to him, and I totally understand if that’s the choice they need to make. (I recently took the liberty of unfriending his whole family on Facebook, not because I don’t love them, but because I know they are unwaveringly loyal to him and it hurt me too much to see them there.)

sandI also know that I need my close friends–the people I hang out with–to be people who do not feel the need to maintain a friendship with my abuser. I don’t have the energy to deal with the strain of spending time with people knowing they probably just hung out with him last week.

So, I guess this is just to say that I’m working on my boundaries. Some people in my life might notice that I’m a little quieter, a little less likely to socialize. Or maybe they won’t. But I will be spending my limited energies not on people whose choices say that my abuse doesn’t really count but on those who bolster and uplift me and remind me that I am truly loved.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Six Months Later: Thanks for Being Here

calendar.pngTomorrow will mark six months since I learned that my best friend had betrayed me. Six months since he got caught, confessed, and ran out the door as fast as his cowardly feet could carry him. Four months since I gave up any hope that he was still capable of being a friend or even a decent human being when it came to his treatment of me and broke off all contact with him probably forever.

This has been one of the (if not the) most difficult periods of my life—a life that has included other betrayals as well as beatings and even rape. And though I’m doing much better than I was six or even four months ago, there are times when the whole thing hits me all over again and knocks me back down onto the floor where he left me back in December. A photograph, a dream, the bar where we had one of our first dates which I can’t avoid visiting because friends must support friends—these things and so many others poke holes in the armor I’ve built around myself these past months and stab me right in the heart.

I have felt all of these things and more.

I have felt all of these things and more.

Some folks tell me that all this only has as much power over me as I allow it to have–that it is my choice whether to dwell in the past or move on with my life. It’s true, I have no choice but to move on–it’s that or die. But this healing I’m doing is a process, and I don’t actually control how my body reacts to stimuli such as an image, a place, or just a vivid memory. There’s a sensation like a kick to the gut or chest, and then the tears come, and *then* I get to choose what to do next. And I have chosen life. And there have been good times. I have optimistic days. Sometimes I think I might be ok. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again and that I won’t feel agony every time—at least for a while.

The support I have received from friends and acquaintances (and here I must acknowledge that even the ones who say and do things I don’t find particularly helpful are usually trying to be supportive) has been overwhelming. Social discomfort has mostly been due to the place (my old apartment building, the bar I mentioned above, a local convention, or just downtown Seattle, for that matter) or my state of mind. There are those times when people ask how I’m doing and then change the subject when I tell them the truth and it’s not happy, and that can be awkward and can leave me feeling like they didn’t really want the answer to that question. (I’ve never been one for small-talk anyway, so if you ask how I’m doing, you’re very likely to get an honest answer.) There are those people who I know are still friends with my ex, and that can be uncomfortable for me because he hurt me so much and they remind me of that by their very existence in my social sphere (it’s not their fault—it just is). There are those people I suspect are still his friends, but who don’t tell me so—don’t say anything at all about him (which is as it should be—as I have requested—if they are still friends). All of this can be awkward and painful, but it honestly pales in comparison to the outpouring of support from people from all areas of my life—especially from my online friends and acquaintances (some of whom are also RL friends and acquaintances).

That very much includes you, dear readers. Very much indeed. Without this place to share my stories and my personal…challenges? …this past year, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like. Without this place to vent my pain and rage in December and January, I’m afraid to think what would have happened to me. And without you showing up here, whether just to read or to comment or commiserate, this place would not be what it is for me. I know that I can talk about the things that feel important–whether they are about all of us or just about me–because you have helped me see that our stories are one of the most important ways we learn, grow, and connect with our fellow human beings.

Thank you for being a part of mine.

rosiethankyou.jpg


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


No Sacred Cows

Holy CowI’ve been at this blogger-activist thing less than a year, but I know I’ve said it more than once: I strongly believe we have to hold ourselves and our allies to the same standards we do our opponents. This means we can’t allow ourselves to place anyone on a pedestal where criticism can’t reach them, and we can’t sweep bad behavior under the proverbial rug. It means we don’t let one another off the hook when we slip up and contribute to the problems we’re all trying to fight.

It means no sacred cows.

It doesn’t mean we have to point fingers and assign blame—at least not in my personal best-case scenario. To me, it means we point out the problems we see with what someone said/did/wrote, and then we stand back and let the person respond, hopefully taking some time to consider and form a thoughtful rebuttal or explanation or mea culpa. I know this can work—I see it all the time. But people have to be willing to ask the uncomfortable questions, like “Did you mean to say X? Because that’s what I heard.” And then follow up with “Here are all the ways that’s problematic.” And that’s difficult to do. But I think there’s too much at stake not to at least try to do it more often.

Lately, I’ve had a number of encounters with people who are fairly hardcore about responding when a stranger or celebrity or faceless entity they care nothing about says or does something out of line, but seem very reluctant to call out people (or entities) they consider allies even if they behave really badly. And some of these folks can be extremely critical of those who do call out bad behavior from people (or entities) they deem “good.” For example, some critics point to a given target of my activist ire and a) tell me all the things to like about them and b) draw comparisons among the issues I could be focusing on and finding my choices lacking—particularly in the face of how awesome the target is if I could only see all the good they do. But the fact that a person or company or organization might be otherwise awesome is precisely why I have to speak out when they do something less-than-awesome. If I let someone off the hook for bad behavior because they also do good, I’m making a conscious decision to condone that bad behavior under certain very particular circumstances (i.e., ones that suit me in a given situation). There’s a word for someone who does that: hypocrite.

Sacred cows are everywhere, even in our social circles. Like that one guy people apologize for because he’s a “good guy” who goes to church or gives to charity or volunteers with underprivileged puppies or whatever even though he did something really awful to another member of your social circle (this probably sounds like I’m talking about someone specific, but it happens all the time—see Captain Awkward #322 & #323 and #393 for examples). Or that woman who really is a great person who helps people and does all kinds of good, and when she says or does something really awful, no one will call her on it because she probably didn’t mean it the way it sounded, or she was just having an off day, someone provoked her, or don’t pick on her because look at all the GOOD she does. When we let these people off the hook, we’re sending a message that they can behave as they wish without consequence. We’re sending a message to anyone these people have wronged that the wrongs they suffered don’t count. And that can be pretty harmful. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. (In fact, Sid wrote about it here.)

So what is at stake? Because we’re all tacitly condoning it, the behavior will very likely continue. Within the framework of activism, allies may decide to adopt the behavior and perpetuate the problem, while opponents will certainly make as much hay out of the offense as possible—especially since we’ve chosen to ignore it and laud the offender’s accomplishments instead. These are just some of the risks we take when we apply a double standard.

But the most important thing at stake here for me? My integrity.

When I do this thing I am describing—when I choose to apply my standards to only those unfortunate enough not to be among my sacred cows—I compromise my principles. And what value is there in anything I do or say if I don’t defend my principles with everything I’ve got?

barack_obama_haloThe most high-profile sacred cow we liberals hold dear is President Obama. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy as hell that he became president and that he got reelected. But there are things he does that have me scratching my head and I have spoken out about them in the past (not here I don’t think, but on my previous blog for certain). I had a (very unrealistic) hope that we would get modern-day equivalent of a fireside chat out of this guy where he loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves, parked his butt on the corner of his desk, and leveled with us on the day-to-day struggles of governing this country. I want to understand why we’re killing civilians with drones, why Gitmo can’t be closed (yes, I’ve read the reasons), and why the HELL he thinks fracking is a good idea. I wanted him to explain how he didn’t agree with some provisions of the NDAA but had to sign it into law anyway (for reasons I’ve also read).  And that’s just for starters. The President of the United States is the very LAST person we should be letting off the hook.

Penny Arcade, PAX, and front-men Gabe and Tycho, are sacred cows in the games industry where I’ve mostly made my living for the past 25 years. When I asked friends recently whether PA had ever acknowledged what the real problem was with the way they handled what’s now known as the Dickwolves Debacle (i.e., did they ever apologize, or did everyone just sweep it under the rug and keep going to PAX?), I heard two things: 1) No, they haven’t done anything to illustrate an understanding of what they did wrong. 2) PAX is too important a networking opportunity for some folks to miss, especially given the current economic climate. I sympathize, but I think we have to demand better from people with as much pull in the industry–especially among youth–as Penny Arcade enjoys. But we don’t, and so Gabe goes along his merry way being a rape apologist (he recently decried the unfairness of Kickstarter’s decision to pull a game called “Tentacle Bento”–in which the player’s goal was to accost as many schoolgirls as possible as an alien tentacle monster) and all around ignorant ass, and steadfastly refuses to hear anyone who attempts to help him understand people whose experiences differ from his and correct his course to avoid causing harm in the future. He consistently trivializes issues people ask him to take seriously, poking fun at or even ridiculing critics (and thereby encouraging his followers to do the same). And anymore, Tycho just seems to pretend none of it is happening. PA continues to be a major influencer, with the industry flocking to PAX where a lot of people still think Dickwolves was a kick in the pants because PA never stood up and said “We were wrong–here’s what we learned.” They have explicitly chosen not to use their influence to help solve the problems they continue to help perpetuate. And frankly, too few in the industry have asked them to.

The rape joke that got Penny Arcade into trouble in the first place (but was ultimately minor compared to their handling of the fallout) fell into that oh-so-holy space just outside reality where people are supposedly allowed to say and do anything: comedy. I’ll let Lindy West speak to that (via Jezebel):

But it’s just a joke. Calm down.

Yeah, dude, but this shit isn’t magic. It’s not a game. It’s not like you get to declare the comedy stage “base” and the rest of the world “hot lava” (spewing from the vaginas of feminazi gargoyles, I’m sure) and everything you say on the stage exists in some sacred loophole that’s exempt from criticism and the expectation of hard work. Rape, domestic violence, brutalization, marginalization, the struggle to make yourself heard—all of this shit is REAL to a lot of people. They’re not cute little thought experiments for you to mess around with without pushback. You can lie to yourself all you want, but if you say something awful to somebody in the course of your regular day, it is exactly the same as if you say it on stage. If anything, its emotional impact is magnified.

And anyway, anyone who says “but it’s just a joke” has never had their life profoundly changed by a joke.

In the same article, Lindy has this to say about sacred cows:

But Louis CK!

Ugh, this part is so boring. Okay. Do you know what else Louis CK does? He changes. He evolves. He thinks. And when he fucks up, he gets criticized like crazy, and some of that criticism makes it into his brain—and, eventually, his act. Also, just because one of comedy’s sacred god-kings manages to be funny and smart when broaching certain sensitive topics doesn’t mean they can’t also be harmful. You know, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Etc. Just because Jeffrey Ross can (debatably) pull off a “haha, faggot” once in a while doesn’t mean that identical “haha, faggot”s aren’t actively moving gay kids to kill themselves all over the fucking country. It’s real, and it deserves critical thought, not kneejerk defensiveness.

Also, you’re not Louis CK. Maybe don’t invite the comparison.

It’s not easy to realize your behavior might be contributing to the very problems you claim to want to solve. But if you’re lucky enough to reach a certain level of self-awareness, you realize that you’d rather be right—really right—than be wrong and defend your wrong position like a stubborn jackass. I have been known to say you can be Jesus H. Christ and heal the sick all day long, but if you’re an asshole, I’m going to say, “Jesus! Don’t be an asshole!” But even I didn’t want to heap criticism on the president at election time in 2012. And that made me a hypocrite. A well-meaning hypocrite with what felt like good reasons for being so, but a hypocrite nonetheless.

nosacredcows

So, this is my mea culpa for that and for how hard it is for me to call out my sacred cows when I think something they have said or done has caused harm. I can’t say it will never happen again. I’m not going on a witch hunt; believe it or not, I’m actually non-confrontational by nature. But I want to do better. I’d like to call on anyone reading to consider joining me in making a commitment to hold ourselves and each other to the highest possible standard so we all strive to do and be better. At the very least, we’ll give our opponents less ammunition. At best, we will raise the level of discourse, which is always worthwhile.

Either way, we’ll have our integrity.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Virgin: We’re Not Flying It (#notflyingit)

Image

“Hi, there…”

UPDATES: See bottom section for news.

Imagine: You’re all settled in for a long flight and ready for a bit of solitude (as much as can be afforded on an airplane these days) and a drink, when lo and behold, a flight attendant appears with a daiquiri. You didn’t order a daiquiri. In fact, you haven’t ordered a drink yet.

“It’s from the gentleman in 21A,” the attendant tells you, still holding the drink as though you really ought to take it. Across the aisle, the “gentleman” in 21A winks at you, and raises his glass. And introduces himself as the flight attendant sets the drink on your tray table and walks away.

This is how I imagine Virgin’s new “get lucky at 35,000 feet” promotion (for their seat-to-seat service) panning out for women. The actual service is pretty cool: It allows passengers to buy items for other passengers, so for example, adults traveling with multiple older children can feed and water them easily all with a swipe of a credit card in a seat-back terminal. But let’s face it: though some women will probably take the bait, this promotion is aimed at men and encourages them to aggressively pick up on women on Virgin flights. That’s not something I want when I travel. And it’s certainly not the attitude I want from the airline I fly with.

Virgin has long been my favorite airline. Their “Fear of Flying” program helped me fly again after years grounded by my terror. My daughter won’t fly any other airline. And now she very likely won’t fly at all until Virgin gets their act together and realizes that this promotion–aimed at men–targets women and essentially turns Virgin flights into flying meat-markets. For women–many or even most of whom experience unwanted sexual attention in public spaces on a regular basis–this means that Virgin flights will be potentially uncomfortable and even unsafe spaces. Certainly for women who don’t seek male attention when they fly.

I propose a hashtag campaign on Twitter similar to the #notbuyingit campaign aimed at companies that exhibit, promote, or support sexist behavior. Please help me tell Virgin we’re #notflyingit until they drop this promotion and apologize for putting women on the menu.

What you can do to help get this rolling:

  • Share this post on all your social media networks. Here’s a handy Twitter button so you can tweet it out now:
  • Tweet to @VirginAmerica and let them know this is a bad idea. Here’s another handy button for you:
  • Sign this petition asking Sir Richard Branson and Virgin to take a stand for women and end this promotion. While you’re at it, sign this one, too.
  • Use the #notflyingit hashtag to tweet CEO @richardbranson and tell him what you think about this “get lucky” promo.
  • Use the #notflyingit hashtag on Google+ to alert people to this campaign and make it easy for us to track who’s talking about it there.
  • Email your friends and allies and ask them to participate!

notflyingitimage.png

UPDATE:

6/4/2013 4:30pm
This morning, I received an email from Jennifer Thomas, Director of Corporate Communications at Virgin America. Here’s an excerpt:

First off, we are sorry to hear your disappointment re: the promotion of the new seat-to-seat ordering feature. Please know it was absolutely not our intent with the service or the promotion to make anyone uncomfortable, and we’d like to chat with you (and our head of marketing Luanne Calvert) to discuss the intent of the campaign and your concerns in a bit more detail as well as explain the mechanics of the feature (namely that there is an anonymous block feature built into the service). I also wanted to pass along that the Get Lucky promotion itself actually endedthis Friday, so that campaign is no longer live and in the market. In addition, the only official photo we released of the service was of a woman ordering for a man (for what that is worth). Please know that we do take your feedback to heart – and will bear it in mind when evaluating future campaigns. But would love the opportunity to chat with you more if you were open to a call.

I was. So this afternoon–after sending along some links so they could make themselves familiar with the issues as some of us see them–I spoke with Jennifer along with Luanne Calvert, VP of Marketing for Virgin America. Jennifer seemed to do most of the talking, but Luanne chimed in a few times, especially with regard to the marketing side of things. They had, from what I gathered, four primary goals for the conversation:

  1. To explain how the seat-to-seat system works (again, there is a decline feature) and how it is being used by customers (primarily as I described previously: among people who already know one another or are already chatting amiably);
  2. To point out that the “get lucky” promotion (which ended on Friday 5/31 [yay!] but is still on their Facebook page and a contest was still running on their website the last time I looked) was launched in conjunction with their new Los Angeles-to-Vegas direct flights, and was intended as a “tongue-in-cheek” play on getting “lucky” in Vegas.
  3. To assure me that regardless of how I may have interpreted their marketing campaign (marketing being one of those things that “people interpret differently” according to Luanne Calvert, and I agree–to a point) they were absolutely dedicated to passenger comfort onboard their flights and would never tolerate any abuse of the system or harassment of one passenger by another. (In fact, they said that if they believed the service was being “abused” they would turn it off or otherwise address the problem.)
  4. To assure me that they had heard our concerns and would take them into consideration when planning future promotions.

I’m going to break this stuff down and fill in some details of our conversation, along with my own takes on…well, everything.

How STS Works

In her email this morning, Jennifer Thomas included the following:

The function itself was designed to accompany the existing seat-to-seat chat feature (something we’ve had onboard since 2007). There were actually similar concerns raised about that feature when we launched it – yet we have never received complaints since its inception six years ago. Most people use the service to chat with friends, family or co-workers traveling in the same party. Built into the feature, there is a function that allows guests to block all chat requests – or just a specific one, and as a result — we have not seen issues arising.

In our conversation today, Jennifer reiterated that the seat-to-seat system has a “decline” feature so you don’t have to accept anything purchased for you by a stranger. I explained that I would much rather opt in to such a service than have a request pop up on my screen while I’m watching my movie to intrusively alert me that “someone wants to buy you a thing.”

This brings us to the second part of point 1 above:

How People Use STS Now

Many people use the STS system. I’ve used it. It’s great! Here’s another excerpt from Jennifer’s email:

In fact, guests have enjoyed — and provided overwhelmingly positive feedback about — the chat feature since its launch: it makes the flight experience a bit more social. And as you note, the seat-to-seat delivery feature grew out of a common request from family members and friends flying together in different rows — with the addition of the new remote ordering feature, for example, a guest in one row can now order and pay for their friend who may be traveling in a separate row.

Yes. This is how people mostly use it. And I sincerely hope this promotion doesn’t result in more men inflicting unwanted attentions on women. But again, that’s only part of the problem.

The “Intention” of the “Get Lucky” Promo

Luanne Calvert wanted me to know that the “get lucky” campaign was meant to be “fun” and “cheeky” and that they didn’t intend to offend anyone. I explained that the promotion appeared to be encouraging people to use it as a pick-up tool, and since the primary aggressors in these situations are traditionally men in our culture, that means encouraging men to hit on women on an airplane, and that many women don’t relish that idea.

“I’m not sure what your experience is,” I said, “but a lot of us feel like we run a gauntlet of unwanted attention wherever we go.”  A moment of silence, then they assured me that they wanted people to be comfortable on their flights and again, this was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, a Vegas tie-in, etc.

I read Sir Richard’s quote: “I’m not a betting man, but I say your chance of deplaning with a plus-one are at least 50 percent.” They pointed out that the promo video (from which that quote was taken) was full of silly stuff like puppies and space ships and was meant to be funny. I pulled up and read to them from another article where Sir Richard talked about “dating” being the next big thing, the feature people wanted on airplanes that he was going to give them. They repeated that no one seemed to be using STS in any objectionable way and that they would take action if they ever did get complaints. (They also said they keep a close eye on alcohol consumption, which reduces the likelihood of drunkenness contributing to any potential problem.)

Dedicated to Passenger Comfort

Thomas and Calvert seemed genuinely to want me to feel like I could comfortably fly Virgin America without fear of harassment by other passengers. They reiterated several times how important it was that people feel comfortable on their planes. Unfortunately, they seemed to think that the discomfort with the “get lucky” promotion was based on a) lack of context and b) misinterpretation of the intention of the campaign.

Resolution?

Throughout the conversation, I pointed out that the feature itself was not the problem, but that the marketing was problematic. At one point Luanne said, “It’s regrettable there has been some misunderstanding of the campaign,” and reiterated that with marketing, a lot is open to “interpretation.” I think it was around this time I explained that, to my thinking, intention didn’t let them–or anyone–off the hook. That when you realize you’re contributing to the problems we all face, sometimes you have to take a step back and say, “Ok, that wasn’t what I intended, but I understand why it was problematic (here is me explaining my understanding of the issues) and I apologize.” I said this is something people like me do all the time. And that those of us who care about this were counting on them to do that: to say–not just to me on the phone, but to all of us–we get what the problem was with that promotion, and if we had to do it over again, we wouldn’t.

I recommended several times that they consider publishing such a statement: the apology we requested for making us feel commodified. Each time my requests were met with silence followed by assurances that they heard me and that this feedback would “inform our thinking” in the future. “We’ve responded publicly to feedback about this in the past,” they said at one point. There was a news story out there, and they promised to send me a link.

Finally I took a deep breath, sighed, and took another.

“Ok,” I said, “I just have one more question for you: Would you run a promotion like this again?”

Laughter. “We’d call you first!” someone said. I think it was Luanne.

Jennifer Thomas and Luanne Calvert listened. They gave me some of their time today and treated me with respect and for that I’m grateful. I received a link in email to the news story containing Luanne Calvert’s statement. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Using the seat-back computer on all Virgin flights, passengers can order drinks or food to be delivered anywhere else on the plane. Perhaps you want to treat a travel companion — or perhaps you’ve noticed a cute brunette in 14A?

Luanne Calvert, the head of marketing, said Virgin America always wants to stay a step ahead of competitors with in-cabin features. The idea for seat-to-seat delivery, she said, grew out of the existing seat-to-seat chat feature on the seat-back computer system, called Red.

“Our in-flight system is about fun,” Calvert said.

She said it has been received well on recent flights since its rollout. But she squashed any suggestion that the service has turned flights into a 30,000-foot-high singles bar.

“The way people are using it in reality is with someone they know already. They say, “it was fun hanging with you. I want to buy you a drink.’”

So, the promo is over. Virgin America listened and apologized to me, but they have pretty much outright declined to make any sort of statement (which I would happily have helped them craft) that communicates their understanding of the reasons their “Get Lucky at 35,000 Feet” left a bad taste in my mouth and at least some of yours. I’m not at all convinced they get it, but I do believe they’ll think about all this the next time they plan a promotion. And I thank everyone who got involved for helping me to get their attention. In less than 24 hours, we made something happen–just a few of us working together. Thank you.

I’m still chewing on all this and will write a bit more later. Meanwhile, I welcome your comments (as long as they’re polite).

6/4/2013 9:00am

I just got off the phone with Jennifer Thomas, Director of Corporate Communications for Virgin America who says they’re anxious to discuss my concerns. I’ll be talking with her and Luanne Calvert, VP of Marketing, in a bit. Watch this space for news.

FAQ:

Why can’t you just refuse the drink?

Oh, I can and will refuse drinks from strange men on airplanes. But that doesn’t change the fact that many women will feel obliged not only to accept the “gift” but to pay some attention to the giver. Because that’s the point, isn’t it? And she’s on an airplane, so she can’t just excuse herself when she wants to get away. If the guy is nearby, she’s stuck.

What’s your problem? Buying drinks for women is a traditional entry point to dating!

Yes, it is. And when I go to a bar full of men and women hoping to meet the next love of their life, I am not at all surprised to receive a drink compliments of some man or other. I can take or refuse it, and if I’m at all uncomfortable, I can leave. When I get on an airplane, it’s for completely different reasons, and I can’t escape. That’s my problem with encouraging this kind of behavior as a way to “get lucky” on an airplane.

Why a boycott? Why not just write a letter?

This post and the hashtag campaign are sort of a letter to Virgin. Boycotts–or threats of them–are, in my experience, the most efficient and effective way to get a company’s attention. And I wouldn’t advise any woman who wants to fly peacefully to book a flight with Virgin until this changes.

Have questions? Ask in the comments below.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


The Perfection Myth

Guest post by FrabjousLinz

86536628I’ve always struggled with body image. Wait, no, let’s be blunt. I’ve always hated the way I look, alternating with thinking I look OK at best. It’s worse the last few years, since I’ve put on weight, and since I’m older and don’t have youth working for me. But truthfully, I’ve never been happy with my body, or my face, or my hair. Or my personality, but let’s not get into that one right now.

I remember wanting to be pretty from a very young age, about when I realized that it’s a girl’s job to be pretty in this world, and that without it, society thinks she doesn’t have any worth. So what, about 4 years old? 5? I remember my brother pointing out to me what models were the prettiest in the JC Penny catalogue. I remember thinking, along with a lot of girls I’m sure, that my only hope was to grow up pretty, because that was the only way to be happy and have friends. I remember hoping that, like the ugly duckling, I would turn into something gorgeous and show-stopping. Because I knew, just knew, that I was ugly right then and there.

Looking back at pictures of myself, I was not an ugly child. I was just a child. I was even, maybe, a cute child. See? It’s hard to really be objective, even now. But at the time, I remember feeling ugly and ungainly and weird looking. I wasn’t popular among most of my classmates, which didn’t help. I was weird, or at least a lot different from many of the kids I grew up with. And one of the regular insults thrown around at kids by kids is always “ugly.” Which doesn’t have to be true to feel true. As I grew older, I only felt more ugly and awkward and weird and ungainly. Some of the ungainly and awkward is true for all kids at those stages – growing is a strange process, and not everything goes together in a cohesive way. But I was certain I was more awkward, more weird looking, more ugly, than basically everyone else around me. I did not know how to wear the right clothes, or the right hair. Of course, those are skills that can be taught, but no one taught them to me, and not having them only served to make me feel even less attractive. Because even when I tried, I felt like I failed. People told me I failed. The society around me told me I failed.

old photo

Someone else’s mom.

My mom did try to help, but since she suffers from a lot of the same feelings about herself, it didn’t help as much as she would have liked. And while I know that she had no desire to pass on these neuroses to me, she almost couldn’t help herself. She always called herself unattractive and fat. In fact, we all joked about it all the time, which was horribly cruel of us. “Oh, we’re just joking,” we’d all say, even my dad. “Mom’s not really fat or ugly. It’s just funny to say she is.” That joke lived a lot longer than it should have. My mom – tiny, thin, pocket-sized, bird-like mom – is always trying to lose weight. Always. She denigrates the way she looks. She deflects, is humorously negative about herself, makes her own jokes about being awkward and aging and imperfect. Everyone loves her. Everyone – although she would disagree, and laugh that off. Everyone loves my mom. She’s great. She’s funny and talented and articulate and smart and caring, and yes, she’s also very pretty. But she would never admit to any of that. So I grew up watching this fantastic person constantly put herself down.

I am more like my mom than I like to admit. Uh, and I think I just called myself fantastic. I can’t even describe how panicked and weird I feel about that. I want to take it back. Not me – I’m not fantastic. My mom is. I’m just like her in that I hate myself. Uh. That sounds bad. Quick, how do I make this funny?

Moving on. As a kid I was always on the short side, and skinny, shaped kind of like a medium-sized pole. Until I grew two inches and got hips right about 14. (And ended up with an impressive set of stretch marks, which were very confusing and distressing at 14. OK, they’re always distressing.) So then I was skinny, taller than 90% of the people (boys, too) in school, and shaped a bit like a taller pole with saddle bags in the middle. At least that’s how I saw it. Weird-looking. There was a standard of beauty, and I didn’t meet it in any way. I tried different hair, which was a disaster. I tried different clothes, which I didn’t understand and almost always had the wrong ones. I tried very hard to be likeable, with varying results. But I still wasn’t pretty, not really. Not as far as I could tell. And if you’re a girl, and not pretty, then you are close to worthless. That’s the message I received, and whether I wanted to or not, I believed it. Deep down, somewhere in my psyche, I believed – believe – I was worth less, because I didn’t measure up on the attractiveness scale. Some people told me I was pretty, but family members and close friends never count, even though they should. And even if I’d had other outside confirmation, I don’t know that I’d have believed it.

20130419-Women-and-PerfectionOf course, the girls who were considered pretty didn’t have it easy, either. And most of them didn’t even consider themselves pretty. Because it’s not just our job, as females, to be pretty. We have to be prettier. Not just prettier than each other (which is a terrible thing, just by the way), but prettier than we were before. Prettier every day. Fix all the things that are wrong, and then find new things to fix. Continue fixing. I remember one male classmate, at some lazy lunchtime, ticking off how he’d build the perfect girl from our various good body parts, those of us girls who were in the group that day. I think mine was legs. I felt insulted, and also a little sizzle of happy at the same time. He thinks I have good legs! But he was insulting all of us. I said nothing, although now I’m older, I wish I’d said “Each of us is perfect as we are. Pygmalion was an asshole. So what does that make you?” Or something along those lines: possibly more clever. But clever didn’t occur to me at the time. So that guy got away with treating all of us like crap, and none of us said anything about it, that I recall. Not the first or last time general misogyny was present in my high school. But it sticks in my memory. I have (had) attractive legs! That guy was a jerk! I don’t know how to process this! I’m probably not the only one who felt like that. Teenage girls, at least when I was one, were more likely to just ignore sexist remarks than do anything about them. And we internalized that sexism, and believed it about ourselves and sometimes each other.

I was skinny, and continued skinny for a good part of my adult years. When I got out of college, and (due to having more regular income, and food that was not ramen noodles) I gained 15 pounds, I immediately thought I needed to lose 10 of them. I wanted to lose 10 or 15 pounds at all times, as soon as I hit my mid 20s. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my weight. I just wasn’t underweight anymore. I ate plenty, I never had an eating disorder, although I kept thinking I should probably eat better, but never did. I just had the kind of metabolism that all women, and plenty of men, wish for. Heck, I wish for it, now that it’s gone. I could eat whatever I wanted, and I did, and my body mostly stayed the same. Lots of people were disgusted with me for that. For good reason – I was kind of obnoxious with it. Not on purpose, but in that clueless way that a person who is clueless is. But I was still horrified at that little poochy belly, the slightly larger thighs. My mom and I constantly discussed how we could lose 10 pounds. I, at least, never lost any. My mom stopped eating her one small handful of M&Ms per day that she allowed herself as a treat, and lost two pounds. She didn’t need to. She still felt like it was a victory. I felt depressed, because a life lived eating only dry toast, nonfat yogurt, and unbuttered popcorn for a treat just sounds awful. Not that Mom doesn’t sometimes eat cookies, but mostly she eats yogurt. And dry toast. She started eating that way in college because she put on weight then, and hasn’t been happy with her body since. Sometimes she skips the toast, too, because bread. It makes me want to weep.

Here I was in my 20s and then 30s – I was young, skinny, I had healthy hair, my skin was decent, I had (have) basically even features, and while I never had much in the way of a bust, that really shouldn’t have mattered. I had (have) curvy hips and long legs. There was absolutely nothing wrong with me.

I hated my body. I wanted to fix every part of it. My arms were too skinny and shapeless. My shoulders were too wide. My ribcage was too wide. My breasts were too small. My hips were saddlebaggy. I had a little poochy belly. My face was too small and round. My nose was weird. My hair was boring and thin and frizzy. My ankles were too thick. My feet were too big. I liked my legs, but that’s it, really.  I felt this way about myself all the time, adding in new imperfections as I identified them. Now I had more of a double chin, now my thighs weren’t as smooth, now my arms were starting to sag. Always something to be unhappy about.

When I turned 35, a lot happened. Among them, my marriage ended after a long struggle and decline, and I began a new relationship just a few months after its last gasps. I moved from a house into a tiny apartment. Pets died. Lots of big changes. Over those couple of years, I gained 30 pounds. Suddenly I not only felt kind of ugly, and a little fat, I felt REALLY ugly, and A LOT fat. Objectively, I am not fat. I am almost 5’9”, and I’m about a size 14. (I say about, because women’s sizing is arbitrary and ridiculous.) While it’s larger than I’ve ever been before, it’s pretty average. It’s not even considered plus size, although I’m closer to that than I’ve ever been. A lot of stores stop at a size 14, and some stop at 12. So the clothing-sales world is also making me feel huge and ugly and fat. Imagine how it makes people feel who are just a little, or even a lot, bigger? I know some of it is my internalization of our fat-shaming world. But how hard is it to feel good when you can’t find clothes that fit and look good, and most of the clothes on the rack are sized 6 and under? Even when I was skinny, I couldn’t wear a size 6. Too tall, too broad shouldered and wide-ribbed. Hips too curvy. (Of course, the reason those clothes are left on the rack: Average sizes women wear in this country are 10-16, so those clothes go first. But still, it makes you feel worse.)

192388215302202217_bizCSl3i_c1-e1357576849117There’s nothing wrong with being the size I am. There’s nothing wrong with being larger. There’s nothing wrong with being smaller. I mean, health reasons aside, but many people are perfectly healthy at whatever size they are right now, and the health things are between themselves, their healthcare professionals, and their loved ones. But shame feels forced on all of us, anyway. I feel it all the time. I feel judged. I don’t know for certain that I am judged, but I feel it. And I judge myself. All things being equal, I should be able to find love and acceptance in at least one place in the world, and that should be for myself. But I don’t. I look at other people of all shapes and sizes, and I find them perfectly fine just the way they are, beautiful, even. I look at myself, and I find myself awful.

The reasons I gained the weight are relatively straightforward – I’m older, so my metabolism changed. And due to my separation and divorce, my metabolism changed while under a lot of stress, which exacerbated any changes going on. My body feels a lot different than it used to. I have a huge chest now, it seems to me. I always used to want a bigger chest, but now I want a smaller one, because these things are in the way. I had to learn how to wear entirely different clothes, because the kinds of things I was used to wearing don’t work for busty. I call them adult-onset boobage. It’s honestly a real shock – another thing my body has done to betray me. But really, it’s the same basic body. My bust to waist ratio has not changed. They’re just bigger numbers. So I’m still kind of square on top, with curvy hips, and long legs. But none of it feels the same, and I still hate it. So I hated my body when it was skinny and young and smooth and strong. And I hate it now that it’s curvier and busty. Although who wants older and saggier and lumpier? It’s hard to find acceptance for that. I should. It’s just a body, right? Bodies do this. They change. They change all the time, and agonizing over it and wanting something different is just an exercise in futility. So why can’t we all just learn to love our changing bodies?

tumblr_mlpyrcaLpi1qb89uwo1_400I think it’s partly because our society doesn’t want us to. Our society, for whatever reasons (possibly capitalism), wants us to strive for prettier, younger, more perfection, whatever the current definition of perfection is. So I have to hate my body, because that’s how it works. Then I’ll buy the things that I hope will make me prettier. Then I’ll pass on my self-hatred to my children, when I have some, and keep the cycle going. Then we’ll work hard at the impossible. Pretty is still a woman’s main job, even when we denounce it, even when we shout that it’s not true. But to many, if a woman isn’t pretty, or isn’t the right kind of pretty, then she is substandard. Definitions of pretty change, but the job stays the same. And it’s very hard to measure up to the definition, since that definition is always some guy, or corporation, pulling apart different women and putting their body parts back together. Here, this random amalgam of parts, this patchwork inhuman thing we have sewn together as though we were Dr. Frankenstein, this is perfection. Perfection that no one really has, certainly not any human girls, because they are human and not carvings or pictures or statues. Because someone can always find another fault, another reason to nitpick, another reason to hate your body. Something to fix.

pretty

I don’t want to hate my body. I’ve spent my whole life hating this body, and it’s been really good to me, all in all. It doesn’t deserve all this hate. I certainly don’t want my future children to hate themselves, to spend their time trying to figure out how to be perfect. It’s such a waste. And yet I can’t help myself. I know this is a struggle for so many – to love ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with striving, until there is. Striving for better, when better means happier and healthier, is one thing. Striving for perfection is hurtful and leaves people defeated and full of self-hatred. I want to feel kindness and love toward myself. I just haven’t figured out how, yet. Maybe we can all learn help each other with that.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


The “Friend Zone” is Total Fucking Bullshit

b03I know, I’m late to the party, but it’s my turn to chime in on the ubiquitous Friend Zone conversation/debate/debacle. And like many other sensible people, I’m here to tell you that this is a non-issue invented by dudes who don’t understand how attraction works and believe if a woman likes them well enough to be friends, that ought to be enough foundation for True Love to bloom. They believe that time spent with a woman is an investment, and when that investment doesn’t pay off, you’re not only in the Friend Zone, but you were obviously not man enough for the job.

As Erin Riordan points out in her post, The Friend Zone is a Sexist Myth, the movie Just Friends contains a scene that sums up the Friend Zone perfectly. It also does a great job of illustrating what some men believe it means to be (or not to be) friends with a woman:

Chris: What about Sheila? You making any headway?

Ray: We’ll see. I’m taking her to lunch today.

Chris: Oh, whoa, whoa whoa. Don’t – don’t do that. Okay? Don’t do lunch.

Ray: Why?

Chris: That’s like the express lane to the friend zone.

Ray: What the hell’s the friend zone?

Chris: See when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.

Ray: I don’t want to be a lamp.

Chris: Yea well then don’t be her friend, okay? Take that guy for example…

[points to a clumsy guy and a gorgeous girl skating together]

Ray: You mean that couple?

Chris: No, I mean the guy that *wishes* they were a couple.

Ray: What is your point?

Chris: My point is – Call Sheila, Ray. Call her right now. Move your day date to tonight. Play the entire thing aloof and no matter what you do, kiss her at the end. ‘Cause friends don’t kiss.

Dude is confused.

Dude is confused.

See, dudes who think like this are confused. They think that there’s this window of opportunity with a woman, and that if they miss it, FRIENDSHIP will set in like an infection and all hope is lost. There are so many things wrong with this philosophy. For one, it assumes that once a man and woman are friends, there is no longer potential for sexual attraction. That is patently false: I know from (repeated) personal experience an attraction can spring up at any time between people for whom it just didn’t exist before. And because of its ignorance of this, it also ignores the fact that some of the best relationships start as friendships. It paints friendship between a man and a woman as a sad, pathetic thing and implies that the man wasn’t man enough to make it something more than that. (This, my friends, is one of the ways that patriarchy hurts us all.)

And that brings me to my next point: Choice. Let’s talk about the mistaken idea that a woman a) can choose to be sexually attracted to a person whom, for whatever reason, she currently isn’t, and b) that a woman should somehow be obligated to “choose” a man based on how much time he’s spent with her, how many favors he’s done for her, or any other such perceived “investment.” The former is about chemistry; the latter is about entitlement.

More on entitlement later. Let’s start with a science lesson, shall we?

Pretty chemicals!

You see, “attraction” and “liking” someone are two completely different things. I like my postal carrier, but I’m not attracted to him. Attraction is a physical thing that happens within people, and at the heart of it, it’s a chemical process. Person A’s chemicals and Person B’s chemicals are either compatible at any given time or they aren’t. No, I’m not a scientist, but I understand the basics and I think I’m right about this. The only thing I can figure is that the people who believe in the Friend Zone have never once had someone crush on them and not feel the same way back. (That or, sadly, they have never been in a relationship where attraction was reciprocal.)

Yes, I have been “guilty” of not being attracted to men who were attracted to me and really wanted me to return their feelings. And believe it or not, I (and many other women) have wished fervently for that attraction for a friend who meets so many other criteria. Sometimes we’ve even given in to the idea that you don’t have to feel an attraction for someone in order to be happy with them, and then we have learned the hard way that for many of us, that’s just not true. And ultimately, we’ve had to walk away not only from those relationships with people who were once friends, but from the friendships as well.

Though there seems to be some controversy over the actual meaning of the song “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon, for me it has always spoken to those times when a close friendship had everything but physical chemistry:

He’s everything you want
He’s everything you need
He’s everything inside of you
That you wish you could be
He says all the right things
At exactly the right time
But he means nothing to you
And you don’t know why

And I have been in the place they call the Friend Zone. I have been crazy about people who didn’t return my feelings. But it never once occurred to me to say “Guys only like women who mistreat them and do X, Y, and Z for them, and there’s no winning, waaaaa.” Because other times in my life, the attraction has been mutual. (And again, I’m sorry for anyone who hasn’t experienced that. But it doesn’t mean women are evil bitches who want rich bad boys who treat them like shit.) For the times it wasn’t, the second chorus of the above song was me all over:

I am everything you want
I am everything you need
I am everything inside of you
That you wish you could be
I say all the right things
At exactly the right time
But I mean nothing to you and I don’t know why…

Now let’s talk about entitlement.

People who believe in the Friend Zone seem to think that if a guy is nice enough to a woman for long enough, he’s entitled to something. (Spoiler: He’s not.) Again, this assumes an awful lot about a woman’s right to choose who the fuck she has a relationship with and pretty much anything else–in fact, it actually removes that right to choose and transforms it into the man’s right to be her boyfriend. In other words, a dude is entitled to a woman once he’s made a sufficient investment in her. If she disagrees, and heaven forbid if she’s interested in someone else, she’s a bitch–or worse, a slut.

Can you even imagine the situation in reverse?

jstfrnds

Chris: So, how’s it going with Sheila? Any progress?

Ray: She’s really nice, and I love hanging out with her. We’ve got a ton in common. But I’m just not attracted to her, you know? I like her as a friend.

Chris: But you’d still do her, right?

Ray: If I was a total asshole, yeah, sure, but I’m not, so…

Chris: Ok, glad we got that out of the way. Next question: you’ve been hanging out with her a lot, right?

Ray: Yeah…

Chris: And she made you dinner that one time, right?

Ray: Lasagna. It was really good. From scratch.

Chris: And she picked you up at the airport what, three times?

Ray: Four.

Chris: Dude. You’re in the Boyfriend Zone.

Ray: What? But I don’t want to be her boyfriend. I’m cool with things how they are. I mean, I wish there was something more there, but…

Chris: Doesn’t matter. She’s been super nice to you. You owe her.

Ray: I what? No I don’t. I just don’t feel that way about her. I wish I did, but I don’t. Besides, I met this other girl I really like. Lisa. I’m attracted to her. We’ve got a lot in common, too, and we’re going out tonight.

Chris: You can’t do that. If you do that, you’re a slut.

Ray: I’m a…WTF?

Chris: Sorry, dude. I don’t make the rules.

Poor Ray! He’s stuck in the BOYFRIEND ZONE. Now he has to have a relationship with someone he’s not attracted to (though he really does like her) just because she was nice to him! It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

But what about this poor guy, Rosie? And all the guys like him?

Sigh. Deep breath…

Yes, there are women who take advantage of good men just like there are men who take advantage of good women, so if you’re this guy and she doesn’t have a sprained ankle or something? Yeah, she’s not very nice and you’re not being very nice to yourself by letting her do that to you. But that’s about individuals with low self-esteem and inconsiderate assholes who take advantage of them, not some global phenomenon of women mistreating men.

The Friend Zone as described by the dudes who whine about it doesn’t exist. In reality, it’s just the place each and every one of us finds ourself when we get our hearts broken. And broken hearts are a global phenomenon. They’re the reason poetry gets written and songs get sung–or one of the big ones anyway. If you’ve got a broken heart, I feel for you. I really do.

But seriously? Quit with the Friend Zone bullshit.


Related:

We Need to Talk About the Friend Zone (Feminists-at-Large)

The Friend Zone is a Sexist Myth (Hello)

There’s No Such thing as Being “Friend-Zoned.” She Was Just Never Attracted to You. Get Over it. (People Are Dumb)


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


I Didn’t Know it was Sexual Assault

Guest post by FrabjousLinz (originally appeared at her LiveJournal)

(Trigger warning: this post talks about sexual assault and rape. It isn’t graphic, but be warned if you have triggering around this kind of discussion.)

I’ve been holding off on this post for a few weeks, what with one thing and another. It didn’t seem so extreme, in light of other stories. But I feel like we need to acknowledge that the less extreme offenses are still offenses. Being silent about them adds to rape culture. Shoutout to Rosie, Sid and the gang at makemeasammich.org.

I didn’t realize I was sexually assaulted for a long time. I wouldn’t have called it that. I didn’t call it anything, really, except for wrong and infuriating, until years later. I have been sexually assaulted besides that time; the kind that most people agree is assault – a stranger grabs my body in passing, because I’m a woman and to those people, my having a vagina means I’m available for fondling. No one disputes that as assault, although no one does anything about it, either. But this one I didn’t even recognize.

It was the first few weeks of college. I was, along with all the other freshman kids in my dorm and around the school, trying to figure out how this whole living without parents and with a bunch of strangers thing worked. All of us on our floor kept our room doors open, my roommate and I included, for large swaths of that first week. People wandered by to introduce themselves, hang out maybe. It was awkward and weird for me as a shy introvert desperately trying to be an extrovert and OK and not homesick and overwhelmed. Desperately trying to reinvent myself into someone everyone would think of as wonderful, witty, and fun. I can’t have been the only one who felt lost and weird and alone. I can’t have been the only one who just kept quiet in the face of constant socialization, even when I would rather have just told everyone to go away.

There were several people who made me very uncomfortable from the moment I met them. Most of them turned out to be harmless, if not people I wanted to be friends with. But one guy made me feel stupid and ashamed for everything about myself just as soon as he spoke, every time he spoke. He had a smug, certain look in his eyes that measured and found everything you did as a sexual come-on, and said so. The first time he came into our room, my roommate and I exchanged a lot of looks, but did and said little to discourage him. I remember I was sitting on the floor, eating a banana. He made a lot of comments about that. (He wasn’t the only one to do that, that year. To this day, I eat bananas by tearing off pieces one by one, instead of just biting it. I’ve gotten so I like the ripping noise and feel, but I started doing it because apparently women aren’t allowed to just eat a freaking piece of fruit without being told it’s all about sex.) I remember him touching my legs, which weren’t shaved, but it was still warm out, so I was wearing shorts. I was embarrassed about the stubble. I was irritated and nervous that he was touching me. I don’t remember when I told him enough, but I do remember I let him touch me for longer than I wanted to. Which was at all. I was trying to be a new, adventurous me. I was trying for urbane, sophisticated, raising my eyebrow at him instead of just jerking away and snarling. It didn’t work. I had to eventually tell him to just stop it. I remember he acted amused and sneering, like he was just testing me. His actions sent up many red flags, but I had put up with a lot of generalized sexual harassment in high school that wasn’t so dissimilar, from boys who were friends. I didn’t like that guy, but I didn’t make a fuss.

Sometime during the next few weeks, I was in another dorm room down the hall from mine with five or six other people, my roommate included. It was a girl’s room, but not everyone in there was female. The guy, the predator, burst into the room with us and threw me down onto the closest bed, dry humped me while I struggled. He was laughing, saying “Oh baby, Oh baby, yes, yes!” in a high pitched voice. It happened so fast, I barely registered he was in the room before he threw me. I flew like I’d been thrown from a merry-go-round. Once I was on the bed, he was on top of me so fast, blocking out the light, blocking out everyone else. I yelled. I thrashed. I could not move him: I was completely stuck. I couldn’t breathe because of his weight, because of the way he had me positioned. I couldn’t get any leverage to knee him or move my arms the way he held me down. I could feel his movement, his laughter, his breath. I couldn’t get him off of me, and my yelling “Stop it! Get off! GET OFF!” meant nothing to him. I was suddenly so angry that if I had had a weapon when he let me up, I would have used it. I am not a violent person, usually, but I felt such a wash of violence come over me like prickly heat: all nausea and sweat and fury. I wanted a knife and I wanted to stab him.

When he did let me up, I screamed, I hit him, I shrieked that he was never to touch me again, if he ever touched me again I would string him up by his balls, I would tear out his guts with a boat hook, I would flay him and leave him to be eaten by buzzards. (Yes, I did. I used to work on imaginative curses for my fiction, so I had these in my head already.) I kept hitting him and kicking him and screaming, which he at first took like “Hah, you’re crazy, what? Why are you mad? It was just a joke!” Looking to the room for confirmation of the joke, of my craziness, fending me off. Eventually he backed up, fled the room, calling me names. I followed him out into the hall, shrieking like mad, yelling anything and everything I could think of. His very large, also football player friends came up to me to block me, back me up, ask me “Why are you treating my friend like that?” I told them to tell their friend if he ever came near me again I would kill him, I would feed his eyeballs to snakes, I would remove his testicles with a rusty fork. I was not quiet. I did not stop screaming. I did back up, and retreated back to my room, still yelling.

The other people in the dorm room when this all happened? Stood there. They laughed when he laughed, laughed when he held me down. Laughed when I started hitting him. They then tried to get me to calm down. I ignored them. My roommate reported to me later that everyone thought I had overreacted, that I was crazy. I told her that I didn’t want to ever be near that guy again, and I didn’t care what everyone else thought. I lost some potential friends for that. I can’t regret it. Mostly we were just thrown together due to our being freshman and living in the same dorm, and while I was sad and felt a little isolated for a bit, I made other friends elsewhere later. But some of those people never really spoke to me again.

FRABLINZQUOTE.jpg

I learned a couple of things from this. When I get really angry, I am prone to violence. If you push me far enough, I will make a lot of noise. So much noise. I also learned that it doesn’t matter how much noise I make, how upset I am: most people will ignore me or try to shut me up. The important thing to them wasn’t that I was assaulted, and no one there would have called that assault. The important thing was that I was crazy. I was loud. I was untrustworthy in a gathering where someone might want to do something to me that I didn’t like. So I couldn’t be around those people.

Maybe that’s unfair – we were all very young and unsure. And it’s possible the laughter I heard was as unsure as the people – uncomfortable, trying to understand where the line is and failing. But I do think it was a failure that those people didn’t try to stop him, not so I noticed. And that when I quite reasonably lost my temper and my cool, and fought back, they said I was crazy. Overreacting. To being held down and dry humped like a sex doll, as though I weren’t a person at all. I have no doubt that if I had just taken it, laughed it off, most of them would have thought that I was a slut. That I was asking for it. If he had ever raped me later, and I hadn’t fought him then, during that first assault, they’d think, well, she probably liked it. I cannot regret that I am not friends with most of those people.

I hope that my shrieking and hitting shocked him. I’m glad it made him retreat. It may be that he didn’t want to escalate with an audience. It may be that the other football players talked him out of retaliating later. It may be that other issues stopped him from retaliating, which I know nothing about. I don’t remember ever speaking to him again. I must have avoided him from then on, because I don’t remember any further interaction at all. He didn’t live on my floor, although he had friends living next door to me. But dorms are small places, and I heard things. I know for a fact that that guy raped at least two women later that year. I know for a fact that one of those rapes went unreported. I know for a fact that guy was a predator, looking for prey. I refused to be quiet prey.

I don’t know exactly why he didn’t try again, but I’m glad he didn’t. I wonder if it’s because I was loud, and people saw it. I wonder if I just seemed like too much work. I do feel terrible for those other women. I hope they got help. I hope they know it wasn’t their fault. I admit to small, petty feelings of vindication when I heard I was right about him. I’m not particularly proud of that, but there’s a part of me that just wanted to shout “I was right!” to certain people. But those rapes weren’t about me, and I also admit to being so relieved I never saw him anymore. Mostly I felt awful they’d happened, and awful that it would probably happen again. I hoped he’d get caught, and stopped. It didn’t occur to me that I could have reported the assault. I didn’t even know it counted. Frankly, I doubt the police or campus police would have thought so, either. But I wish I’d reported it anyway.

not your fucking toy
It wasn’t until the last few years that I recognized what happened as assault. Because it’s not like I was injured or truly hurt, so it can’t have really been assault, could it? We are told, as women, that we should just expect that men will treat us as objects, treat us as subhuman, treat us as though we don’t have any agency or will. That a man can touch us, throw us around, and as long as he’s laughing, that it’s just how men are. (It’s also just how men are when they’re not laughing, but if you’re lucky, you might get to call that assault.) Men just dry hump struggling women on beds. Men just touch women who don’t want them to and make sexual comments about them, what they’d like to do with them. About fruit they’re eating. About clothes they’re wearing. Men just do that, so it’s normal. Assault isn’t normal, so what that can’t have been assault, right?

Wrong. That was assault. Do not accept that men do those things, because most men don’t. People should not do those things. Ever. We, meaning society, have to tell people that they don’t get to do those things, and they’ll be stopped if they do. So that when a predator does those things, we all know that person is a predator. So that young people know assault when they see it, when it happens to them. So it doesn’t happen to them.

We need to change this conversation.


If you need to talk to someone about sexual assault/rape, RAINN can help. You can also contact me via my Facebook page or comment here and I’ll get back to you ASAP. ~Rosie

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Rules for Touching Me

by Sid

no source foundI don’t like being touched. It’s a thing. That whole “three feet of personal space”? Me all over. Get too close and you may notice me inching away (if you pick up on social cues, that is). Unilaterally decide that you need to initiate physical contact, and you may notice my entire body tensing up. Seriously, just don’t do it.

This is not to say I don’t touch anyone ever. My best friend comes up and throws her arms around me at work, and this is welcome. She and I have built up that relationship, though. We didn’t behave that way when we first met. Physical contact is a form of intimacy, and I’m very protective of intimate interactions relating to my person. You don’t get to unilaterally decide we should share an intimate moment any more than I should unilaterally decide that. This is something we come to together, over time.

Some people don’t get that, though. Or they feel like they’re close enough friends with me that they should be able to touch me whenever they choose. They don’t get that even with my closest friends, I sometimes really need that three feet. I mean, really. I can get some really bad reactions, though. And honestly? Those bad reactions make me really uncomfortable.

The more you complain about not being able to touch me, the less I want you to touch me.

Super simple inverse relationship.

Anyway, I wanted to lay down some rules. You may have seen the image I made for Rosie on this topic. Most of those were best as short and snarky, though—when I got down to writing it all out, it turned out I really only had three rules

1. Don’t touch me.

Boom. Simple. No twists, no turns, just…don’t do it. This is especially perplexing with two groups: strangers and coworkers. I don’t understand how anyone thinks it’s okay to touch a person they do not know. I can’t even wrap my head around the thought process there.

Likewise, I don’t understand why you would ever think it was okay to walk up and touch your coworker. Two days in a row at work, I had two separate men come up and touch me—one rubbed my back and one reached around me as I sat at my desk to touch both my arms. Just…why? Why would you do that? (The former, I may as well note, was after no fewer than three years of conversations where I’ve explained to him that I don’t like to be touched. So, yanno…that’s festive.)

2. If I tell you not to touch me, don’t pout.

I had a coworker once who, when he got really close to explain something and I asked him to back up, would make these little irritated noises and say, “Okay…” in that “Whatever, Crazypants” voice. I don’t know what that even is except an attempt to tell me I was not allowed to have personal space and I was wrong for requesting it.

RULES_SID

I am allowed personal space, by the way, and I’m not ever wrong for requesting it.

Not only is this juvenile, it’s attempted manipulation. Part of it, I think, is a defense mechanism—but it’s the kind of defense mechanism that places fault on the person exercising their boundaries. It’s an attempt to show them that they are wrong and should come around to the boundary-breaker’s point off view.

3. Don’t complain about not being able to touch me. Ever.

ImageThis is possibly the creepiest thing in the ENTIRE. WORLD. I walked in on such a conversation at work once. At work. I was coming back from I’m not sure where, and two (count them, two) of my coworkers were talking to my best friend, complaining about how they couldn’t touch me the way she could. Upon my arrival, they didn’t even try to deny the conversation—in fact, they turned their complaints directly to me. “Yeah,” one said, “I tried to hug you once and you almost jumped over the cubicle wall.”

“Well then don’t do that.”

It seemed like an obvious answer to me.

And yet they continued. On an on until I finally said, “Okay…I don’t feel like should have to apologize for where my boundaries are.” Because that was obviously what they wanted—for me to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry! No, please—come on, group hug! I didn’t mean it!” But no…I did mean it, I’ve always meant it, I still mean it.

This is the creepiest conversation I have ever walked in on, and I cannot begin to express how angry I was. I tried to tell my boss about it, but I was still so shaken, I don’t think it came across that I was trying to lodge a real complaint. I think it just sounded like I was relaying this funny thing that happened—but I sure as shit wasn’t laughing.

I’m writing this right now, and I’m getting angry all over again. You do not guilt other human beings into going beyond their comfort zones just because their comfort zones hurt your feelings. You are a grown-up. Fucking act like it.

I don’t mean to keep harping on rape culture, but honestly, this is part of it. This sense that just because Person A feels a certain way about Person B, then Person B must feel the same sort of intimacy toward Person A. That sort of thought process is what leads to the attitude of “Jane wouldn’t say no” and the assumption of rights to her body.

So there you go. Those are my rules. They may not apply to you, but they may apply to people in your life. Don’t just assume you have the right to touch anyone else, and if you must, watch for signals that your touch may not be welcome.

And seriously? Your feelings don’t trump anyone else’s comfort zone. Ever. Period.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


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I Found Your Old Wallet.

ImageIt was empty except for two things: a photo of me and one of us together.

You asshole.

Really, I ought to capitalize that: Asshole. Because that’s my name for you now. Used to be, when you popped into my head, I thought words like “love” and “sweetie” and “baby” and “honey.” Now, without even thinking about it and without my permission, I think–and say out loud every single time–“Asshole.” Or “Fucking Asshole.” Or “What a Fucking Asshole.”

I can’t believe I ever thought you were one of the Good Guys. That I ever thought you were my friend. I’m so sorry that I trusted you–that I didn’t retain some modicum of protection that might allow me to see you for who and what you really are. I can’t believe I let you hurt me–that you still have the power to hurt me.

I once told you I’d forgiven you. I really wanted that to be true. But it’s not. I can’t forgive you. I don’t know how. I know how to say the words, but not how to make them true. The last time I talked to you I told you how hard the week of our anniversary was for me, and you responded by ignoring me on that very day. Ignoring every attempt at communication and then claiming paralysis, and THEN whining about the unfairness of it all when I told you what an asshole you were. You just kept piling hurt upon hurt, but really, it didn’t matter. You had already done the unforgivable by doing everything you did and then leaving me alone to deal with it all by myself.

I truly hope you get better and cease to cause pain to every woman foolish enough to become involved with you. But my experience has taught me this:

You are a narcissist. You are a serial monogamist. You are a sex addict. You are a man who pretends to be good and then lies and cheats and hurts women over and over again. You are a man who believes you are entitled to have your needs met at the expense of other people. You are a man who has learned what he needs to say after he destroys a life (or several) that will make people see him as a good guy who just makes mistakes and never meant to hurt anyone even though you set out every single day for several months fully intending to lie to me, betray my trust in you, and fuck another woman behind my back in downtown hotel rooms while wondering aloud at home where all our money went. You are a liar and a cheater and you don’t know how to be a friend or a partner or even a good human being.

You are an Asshole.


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Changing the Conversation: Dark Alley Not Required

change-the-conversation-2

Trigger Warning for discussion of rape.

This post was originally part of Change the Conversation: A Day of Blogging About Sexual Assault (#pghSAAM) in April 2013. It has been edited since that time. 

One of the most damaging rape culture myths facing us today is that of the prevalence of stranger-rape: that is, a stranger following the perfect victim down a dark street, pulling him/her into an alley, and raping him/her. Yes, it happens. I’m not denying that. But I am here to tell you, in case you weren’t aware, that it is the exception—not the rule.

I’m not here to talk statistics, however. While they’re very important when it comes to forming opinions based on factual information, the point of this exercise is to share my perspective. And my perspective is this:

I have been raped multiple times. Some of my rapes have been pooh-poohed by others due to the circumstances—these are the “gray-rape” scenarios. Others get a pass from those same folks because there was apparently sufficient force or lack of substance abuse involved for the responsibility to lie firmly in the lap of my rapists (my cup runneth over). My sexual abuse started when I was four and continued into adulthood. And not one single time did a scary stranger pull me into a dark place and rape me at knifepoint. Not one single time.

The same goes for nearly every survivor I have spoken to in my over half-a-century on this planet. Many have been raped. Many have experienced rape multiple times. But right now I can’t think of a single example of scary stranger rape of the kind rape culture tells us are hands-down, no-question, “legitimate” rape.

Date-rape. Acquaintance-rape. Passed-out-drunk-rape. Too-paralyzed-with-fear-to-resist-or speak-rape. You-didn’t-say-no-enough-times-rape. Making-out-and holy-shit-your-boyfriend’s-penis-somehow-found-its way-around-the-crotch-of-your-short-shorts-and-past-your-underwear-into-your-vagina-rape.

No scary strangers. No dark alleys.

And most rapes of the kinds described above go unreported because, like the woman in the last scenario I describe above, maybe you didn’t even realize it was rape because you never said anything and you even continued to date the guy, but when you think back and remember that night, you know you didn’t want or expect sex, and now you remember—why didn’t you remember this before?—that you burst into tears at that moment and he asked you what was wrong and you said, “Nothing.”

And it was still rape.

It kills me to realize how many are living with the very wrong belief that what happened to them wasn’t rape because it wasn’t perpetrated by a stranger with a knife in a dirty, dark alley behind a dumpster. When we perpetuate the myth that only forcible, stranger-rape is “legitimate” rape, we create a culture wherein victims are not only disbelieved, they disbelieve their own senses—their own inner knowledge that someone they know and trusted has violated them.

Rape is rape no matter where it happens. No matter who the rapist was to you in the moments before the rape occurred. Rape is rape even if your friend/lover/spouse didn’t set out to rape you. Rape is lack of consent. Period.

And I’m not going to shut up about it.


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How Cool is This?

Guest post by Ro

Note: Ro transitioned several years ago. However, she lived in an isolated setting and had no access to transportation. Late last year, she moved to a village and what follows is her incredible experience. (Originally published on Facebook.)

This is perhaps the most important post I have made on Facebook. Please read.

Screen shot 2013-04-15 at 8.38.53 AMI am blessed with the best friends ever. What follows should stun you. In November, I moved to a very small village in Wales. When I got here, I didn’t know anyone. I would go down the pub and hang out. I wanted people to get to know me. For the most part, I would just sit there and nod and smile at people. However, I did meet two of the most amazing people I have ever known.I have known this couple for only two months now. Absolutely the nicest people I’ve met in Wales. They live very close to me. It’s one of those friendships where you feel like you’ve known them for years. They have known and supported my new gender identity since the first time I met them.The wife and and another female friend went with me to the pub when I first used the woman’s loo two weeks ago. They came as my support team. How cool is that?

I went back to the pub with the wife again last Thursday when I was told by the bartender that I couldn’t use the proper loo. Even though we had just met, my friend was outraged. She walked out of the pub with me and was so very concerned about how I was feeling. She knows me better than I know myself. I was sort of in shock and it took a few days to sort out my emotions. I posted about it here and got remarkable advice and support. Thank you!

She and her husband are boycotting the pub. How cool is that?

I met her, her husband and their 2 wonderful children at a different pub on Sunday. They told me they had been talking with their families and friends about what had happened. They made an offer that totally floored me.

They, their relatives and their friends have made an incredible offer: they want to go to the pub with me again. Not only are they going there to stand up for me, they are offering to go dressed in the clothing of their opposite gender.

Not only will the men dress as women and the women as men: they will go to the loo for the gender they present.

Let me repeat that: New friends, their family and friends (who I haven’t met) will not only support me in my legal right to use the appropriate loo, they will cross dress and use the appropriate loo. Most of them have never met me.

As soon as I was alone, I had a good type of cry. How do I deserve friends like this?

Again, I live in a sleepy little village where everyone knows everyone. A couple I only recently met, their friends and family (again, who I haven’t yet met) are willing to do this wonderful, amazing and brave thing.

I told them that I want to meet with the pub landlord first and discuss the issue. If he doesn’t agree to do the legal thing, I don’t know if I will take them up on their offer.

But, regardless, I stand taller and more confident that these amazing people are willing to stand with me.

I am blessed. I am amazed. I am lucky.

This is why we’re here people: to stand up for each other. I never thought I would meet such wonderful people.

I am grateful to them beyond words. And I am grateful to each of you who support me here on FB.

If others stand tall for me, I must stand tall as well.

Life has never been better. How cool is that?


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The Night I Didn’t Get Raped

by Sid

[TRIGGER WARNING: rape, sexual assault]

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 1.23.43 PMGather round, friends. I want to tell you a story.

When I was 22 years old, I went to a party at a coworker’s house. Between the alcohol and the intervening years, the night is mostly a blur of photos I saw the next day, but a few parts of the evening remain clear to me—particularly toward the end.

It was a party of the “we’re young enough to still be super excited about legally buying booze” variety, and I’m not even sure exactly who was there anymore. Toward the end of the night, though, I found myself in the garage with a few people—it was set up like an extra living room, with a rug, a lamp, and a couple couches. People slowly filtered out until it was me and two guys.

I’m sure they were both perfectly fine looking (I don’t remember), but I was particularly attracted to one of them. No idea what his name was or how old he was now—I knew him for maybe an hour out of my entire life—but I remember that I really wanted to make out with him. Not have sex with him. Just make out with him.

So three of us are in the garage. I forget the specifics of the conversation that led to this, but we were joking around and Other Guy asks some question like, “Why are you in still in the garage?” I said, “I’m waiting for you to leave.” It sounds mean, but I remember it not feeling mean in context, and we all laughed. I just don’t remember the context.

This ≠ "Undress me."

This ≠ “Undress me.”

They exchanged a knowing look and Other Guy left. I got off my couch and went to sit at the edge of the couch where the guy I fancied was lying down. We started making out. Yay me, right? Then suddenly, I remembered—my obligation.

I’ve never had sex, see. To this day. I have reasons, but they’re irrelevant to this conversation. The point is that I knew I wasn’t “allowed” to kiss someone for too long without telling him we weren’t going to have sex, because otherwise he would get super pissed off (whoever he was). I prided myself on not being naïve, see. I prided myself on “not being stupid enough” to expect someone to respect my not wanting to have sex right that moment.

Wait, what?

Yeah.

Let’s rephrase for just a second: I had already accepted that my role as “sexual partner of any kind” universally meant that I was expected to do whatever my “partner” wanted. I understood that I was a minority and a freak, so I felt it was my obligation to get it out of the way early.

I need to put this as plainly as possible: I was wrong on every count.

I sat up quickly and spat out, “We’re not going to have sex.”

The words hung in the air for a second, and he looked at me as though I’d said, “I like pie!”—not upset, not pleased, just…thrown. “Okay,” he said and, satisfied, we went back to making out.

Under a minute later, he was unbuttoning my pants.

I sat up again and pushed his hands away—we struggled gently for control of the button, and finally I refastened it and covered it with my hands. I looked up, and he was irritated.

“Just because we’re not having sex means you can’t take your pants off?”

My brain said, “Well…yeah,” but my mouth only stuttered. I finally managed to get out something like, “I don’t want to,” and he didn’t force it as such, but he was pissy as hell. And I believed that I deserved it, because I was the freak. I was the outlier. I remembered the look he and Other Guy had exchanged. They had both thought he’d be out in the garage getting laid. I had made them both believe that, and I had implied sex by wanting to be alone with a boy I thought was cute.

In case you’re just tuning in, let me be clear: I was wrong on every count.

But because he was now pissy as hell, I felt like I had to make it up to him. So I tried to make him not angry with me by going further than I actually felt comfortable—not very far, but definitely further than I’d wanted. And I felt ashamed.

I was ashamed that it made me uncomfortable.

Not that I was doing something that made me uncomfortable. The actual feeling of being uncomfortable shamed me.

I froze. The combination of discomfort and shame and the shame of being ashamed all spiraled together until I melted down and had a panic attack right there in the garage. I cried and apologized ten or twenty times before I ran out. He made no effort to pretend like he gave a shit about anything except the fact that I was no longer touching his body. I locked myself in the bathroom to collect myself—the house was dark with people sleeping on the floor scattered across two rooms. When the guy finally came out of the garage, Other Guy made a rude comment about how long I’d been in the bathroom (har har, asshole) and I just felt even more humiliated. I finally went to lie down on the floor in the other room. I wanted nothing more than to go home, but I was in no shape to drive.

After lying there for at least an hour, though, I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep. I didn’t want to see him in the morning, and what if he came over to me during the night?

I say night, but it was 4 a.m. when I finally walked out the door and crawled into my Jeep. I should not have been on the road. My last drink had been hours ago and I lived nearby, but neither of those are the point. I was too drunk to drive.

But that’s the choice. Stay in a house where I was deeply uncomfortable on a number of levels (some part of me was aware how aggressive he’d been, but I was too busy blaming myself to properly acknowledge it), or don’t stay in the house and risk driving home. (And yes, now I understand the concept of getting a cab, but I was 22 and lived in Southern California—hell, what’s a cab?)

I wonder sometimes—if I’d been more sexually active at 22, would things have turned out differently? To be clear, I am in no way making comment on anyone else’s life choices—those are your own, just as mine are my own. But for me, personally, I wonder if he would have pushed harder if I hadn’t blurted out that sex wasn’t an option. I wonder if I would have been too afraid to stop him from unbuttoning my pants. If I had already had sex, I think I was just insecure enough that I would have wanted him to think I was cool…by not protesting.

This knowledge scares me. Because I shouldn’t have had to stop someone from trying to remove my clothing. Forcefully stop, actually. I should never have had to answer a question like, “Just because we aren’t having sex means you can’t take your pants off?” Because honestly, what the fuck kind of question is that? If that’s not blatant manipulation, then I need to re-up my Merriam-Webster subscription.

The night I didn’t get raped came down to luck. It was nothing I did or didn’t do—I was so insecure at 22, I barely did what I did. It shouldn’t have had to come down to luck. I shouldn’t have had to push someone’s hands away from my pants once, let alone multiple times. I shouldn’t have had to struggle for control of my clothing.

I was lucky. So many women are not. And this, folks? This is rape culture.

This is our culture.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Not Gay Enough

Guest post by Sara

Sara asked me to help her share this story of coming to terms with who she is and how she feels about the way the world treats her. More about Sara at the bottom of the article.

princessrescueFrom a very young age, I remember being subjected to the idea that I needed a man to “rescue me”, to “make me complete”. We are shown Disney movies in which the princess needs to be rescued, comedies where the leading lady is doing everything she can to nab a man, and movies in which women are portrayed as “lacking” if they aren’t married to a man.

So while I’ve been conditioned my whole life to believe I need “rescuing” and that my life is not full unless I’m sharing it with a man, is there any wonder I’ve hesitated to name myself as gay?

Is it any wonder that I’ve spent my dating life cycling through men, trying to find the one that would fit, yet never been able to be fully happy?

The feelings I had towards women were shameful and disgraceful, according to my religion, my parents, and even society. I wasn’t allowed to be attracted to women. I wasn’t allowed to act on those feelings. I was expected to grow up, get married (to a man of course), and pop out babies.

Yet at the age of 16, I couldn’t deny the attraction to women any longer. I started telling people I was bisexual, because that seemed to cause less revulsion than stating I was actually gay. I truly thought this was the truth at the time, and for many years afterwards, because I believed I was attracted to men. There may even have been a period in my life where I was attracted to men, just not sexually. I just went along with the gender paradigm and did what was expected of me.

I can honestly say that I still find some men attractive. Don’t get me wrong, I do. But as soon as I remember they have a penis hidden beneath their clothes, that’s it. I’m out. I just can’t do it anymore.

I can’t stand feeling disgusted, dirty, and guilty after sexual encounters with men. I can’t stand feeling this way even during these encounters, which happens a lot more often these days.

I can’t deny who I am any longer.

I. Am. Gay.

But, it’s come to my attention that I’m not gay enough for some people.

Let that statement sink into your brains for a few minutes there, folks.

I’m not gay enough.

When I had identified myself as a bisexual woman, I felt like I never really had a place. I wasn’t straight enough to be straight, and now I’m not gay enough to be gay. What the hell?

So, because I’ve had long term relationships with men, instead of women, I am not a viable prospective mate for a lesbian. I’ve been told that they would be too worried that I’m just “going through a phase” and would eventually leave and go back to a man.

It doesn’t seem to matter that during every sexual encounter I’ve ever had with a man, I’ve been picturing a woman so that I could get through it.

Oh, you’ve been raped? Abused? Molested? I don’t want to date someone who’s choosing women just because she hates or is sick of men.

You know what? I’m not sick of men. I also don’t hate men. I’m just not sexually attracted to them. The thought of having sex with a member of the opposite sex literally causes me the most horrendous anxiety attacks.

I’ve been told that early sexual trauma can cause homosexuality. I don’t know how true that is. What about the men who were molested by other men when they were little? Does it make sense that they would choose to be attracted to the same gender that caused them so much heartache? In my case sure, maybe it makes sense. After all the horrific sexual abuses that were perpetrated on me, maybe I do feel safer with my own gender. Maybe that is why I am more attracted, sexually, to women.

I certainly don’t feel like I had a choice in my attraction to my gender. But I’ve stuck with men for all my serious relationships, because I was conditioned to believe that it was expected, nay, required of me. I wanted to get married and raise a family, and God forbid I try to do that with a woman!

So I stuck with what I knew: Men. Even though I wasn’t attracted to them sexually. Even though I had to close my eyes and picture a woman every time I had sex. Even though by doing this, I was shutting away a very large part of myself in the process, and causing problems in my relationships.

I remember actually saying the words to my first long-term ex, “I think I might actually be gay.” I can’t say that I remember his reaction to that, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a positive one.

But finally, I’m ready to admit the truth. No matter how much easier it would be for me to be straight, no matter how much I wish I could be straight, I’m not.

I. Am. Gay.

I brought it up at a very small prayer meeting the other night with a few other women and my pastor. They were so loving and supportive, and told me that they will love and accept me no matter what. That means so much to me.

I got the strength that same night to finally admit it to my husband. He was shell-shocked and very discouraged, but he didn’t get angry with me, and he didn’t say that he hated me. He did say that he wished I knew this 4 years ago before we met, or at least 2 years ago before we got married. I feel badly because I know this is hard for him, he doesn’t know how to handle everything, and I wish I could somehow make it easier on him.

But then on my way in to work this morning, I remembered these conversations I’d had with openly gay women in the past, and it bothered me. A lot. Which is why I’m writing this.

You don’t have the right to judge me just because I’ve always dated men.

You don’t have the right to tell me that I’m not gay, or that I’m not gay enough.

You don’t know my story, and it’s not fair for you to jump to conclusions about me before you do.

Hasn’t the gay community suffered enough from discrimination? Why would you want to put me through the same things that others have put you through? I deserve to be loved and accepted too, flaws and all, just as I would do for you.

But if I’m not gay enough for you, then maybe you’re just too narrow-minded for me.


Sara blogs at Ruffles, Roses, and Lace. You can also follow her on Twitter.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


How Many of Me Equals One Man?

by Sid

talking to a brick wall

Is this thing on?

I work for a game company. Of late, I’ve taken issue with some of the content we’re receiving, and I’ve been everything but quiet about it. I’ve written letters to management and blatantly refused to work on it. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably heard me talk about it.

I was actually the second person on our team of three to get up in arms about it. The first was my boss (we’ll call him Joe for ease of storytelling)—the only male on our team. Joe was far and away the angriest person in the building about it—up until the day he quit over it. Before he quit, though, Joe made plenty of noise about it himself. We were deep into this discussion before we realized the higher-ups thought he’d been raising such a fuss on behalf of his team, comprising two females.

I spoke to HR about the content a few days later, and many aspects of my most recent letter came up. As we spoke, however, I discovered that everyone assumed my female coworker and I were the truly upset folks—despite the fact that Joe never implied a single thing to that end. When I corrected HR, she was shocked. “Joe??”

She said he needed to tell the company how he felt about this content. As a man.

Yes, he was my boss, and had she said “as a manager,” that’d be a whole different story. But those weren’t the words, and that wasn’t the intent. He had written numerous emails, attended a number of meetings, and made his feelings very plainly known, but the whole time, management assumed he was batting for us—myself and my female coworker. His words would have inherently carried more weight if he had made it clear that he had been speaking for himself as a man rather than speaking for two women.

So here’s what I can discern from this:

  1. The automatic assumption is that a man simply wouldn’t disagree with this content; therefore, he must be speaking for a woman.
  2. When the assumption was that he spoke on behalf on two women, his words carried almost no weight.
  3. Were he to speak explicitly for himself as a man, the words would carry significantly more weight than when he was thought to be speaking for two women.

At the end of the day, when his resignation letter made it clear exactly who he was speaking for, the content still went through. Even so, that doesn’t negate everything that came before it. It doesn’t take this bad taste out of my mouth.

How many women equal one man? Obviously more than two, but how many? Three? Five? How many female voices carry the same weight as one male voice?

How many of me do I need to be taken seriously?

This doesn't add up.

This doesn’t add up.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Always Aware

AlwaysAwareV4I have been aware of predators since childhood. Since I was four or five years old and first had a man’s penis in my mouth. Contrary to some knee-jerks here and elsewhere, the fact that I’m aware of predators in my environment does not mean that I think all men are predators. It’s one of those double-edged swords women so often find themselves at the wrong end of: If we get raped, we should have been more careful. If we’re careful, we’re alarmists (worse, we’re FEMINISTS) who believe all men are out to rape us. There’s no winning with some people.

But those are not the ones we seek to reach this month. Over the next few weeks, while the Steubenville wound is still open and oozing, it’s our job to appeal to those people who are not yet aware (or not yet aware that they’re aware) but are ready for awareness. We’re not preaching to the choir or trying to make the blind see–we just need to be vocal enough and authentic enough to reach those who are out there listening, absorbing, and becoming warriors in their own time, at their own pace.

I’ve seen it happen. I know how powerful our stories can be. Share yours. The world needs your voice.


Updates:

Note: Lest anyone think that the point of #AlwaysAware is to put the onus of rape prevention on potential victims, it is not. The point is that (most) women are always aware of potential of violence. We are taught to be afraid and trained to be vigilant. Sexual Assault Awareness Month is not for us–it’s for people who don’t spend every day of their lives alert and aware and looking for ways to keep something like this from happening to them. It’s for people who don’t understand how often women experience assault. It’s for those who believe that women, not men, should be responsible for preventing male-on-female rape. Until we’re all #AlwaysAware of the problem of rape culture, women will continue to bear the weight of that awareness all 365 days of the year.

I’m adding new posters as often as I have time to make them. I’ll replace the one at the top now and then, and add alternate ones here.

AlwaysAwareV3_2

AlwaysAwareV2

AlwaysAware


Related

A Brief History (the Bad Parts version)
I Am Jane Doe
10 Things Rape Is Not
Letter From Another Jane Doe
Bree’s Story

The idea for “Always Aware” started with a Twitter chat with the Sin City Siren and was further inspired by the above illustration by Laura Boyea (used with permission).
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Stop Telling Women to Smile

Screen shot 2013-03-28 at 6.51.16 AMThe title of this post is the name of a street art project by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh aimed at raising awareness in men that street harassment is not ok, and in women that it’s perfectly acceptable to wish–and even to insist–that men would not demand their attention and energy all day, every day, every time they walk down the street.

If you’re a woman, there’s a good chance you know what I’m talking about–although I’m perfectly aware that not all women are bothered by this. When I first got boobs, I was flattered by the attention. It took years to realize how exhausted I was with parrying advances all day, every day. When I tripped over this project on Facebook, a woman claiming to be a therapist had gone from disagreeing to outright trolling, so intense was her need to convince everyone present that not only was asking women to smile not harassment, but that anyone who thought it was should obviously just sit the fuck down and stop talking. So, male or female, just in case you don’t get what the issue is, here are some hypothetical examples. We’ll start with an easy one:

Imagine you’re at a social event and you’re introduced to a gentleman by the name of Dan Bond.  You say the first thing that pops into your head: “Bond. Dan Bond.” Dan gives you a look somewhere between patronizing and withering and says, “Congratulations. You’re the first person who’s ever said that.” If you’re like most people who recognize social signals, you probably feel a bit sheepish. Your aim was to be clever, and you whipped out the one line that was certain to irritate. And if you had any designs on Dan as a friend, business partner, or lover, you’d better hope you’ve got some better lines in your pocket, because at this point he’s is looking for the nearest exit and hoping you don’t follow him.

Now imagine how exhausting it might be for the nth man to say as you walk down the street: “Smile!”

fazHere’s a better one: Guys, imagine you’re walking down the street and seven out of ten men you see are a foot or more taller than you are and outweigh you by fifty to a hundred pounds. Imagine these guys take steroids, so that weight is all muscle, where yours is not. Now imagine that, as you walk, you’re aware of their eyes on you and the lewd comments they make, the whistles, the remarks about your body, what they’d like to do to you. Or maybe they just insist on your attention. Maybe they just tell you to smile. And another one does. And a third. And sometimes you can get past them without incident, and other times, if you don’t respond the way they hope you will, they shout insults after you.

This is what women deal with all the time, walking from home to the bus stop or from the bus stop to the office. In between the wolf whistles and the stares and the lewd gestures and critiques of our looks, is the constant insistence that we present ourselves at our pretty, perky, man-pleasing best. “Smile!” They cry. “Smile!” They exhort. “Smile!” They command, as though our faces are theirs to mold. As though our faces don’t please them as they are. As though it is our duty to paste fake grins upon them on demand even though all we really want to do is get past this fucking gauntlet and get to work.

Most of us are all for friendly conversation when the conditions are correct. But as social beings, we learn to interpret signals that tell us when the other person is open to conversation. Men do not, as a rule, insist on the attention of other men walking down the street. Men (and women) working construction sites rarely, in my experience, insist that men walking by stop and talk to them, respond to “compliments” on their appearance, or smile. And yet for some reason, some men believe that a woman is obliged to be polite when they do ignore the signals that say “I’m on my way somewhere and I’m not even looking at you so please, let me be” and demand her attention. And that’s what Stop Telling Women to Smile aims to change.

From Tatyana’s website:

The project is saying that street harassment is not okay. That feeling entitled to treat and speak to women any type of way, is not okay. That demanding a woman’s attention is not okay. That intruding on a woman’s space and thoughts is not okay. That women should be able to walk to the train, to the grocery store, to school – without having to cross the street to avoid the men that she sees already eyeing her as she approaches. That making women feel objectified, sexualized simply because they are women, is not okay. That grabbing a woman’s wrist to force her to speak to you is not okay. That requesting for a woman to “smile for you” is not okay – because women are not outside on the street for the purpose of entertaining and pleasing men. That it’s quite possible women are wonderful, happy, intelligent human beings that simply want to move through out the world comfortably and safely while wearing their face however the hell they want to.

Another project I recently learned about is They Know What They Do, by a young woman named Shreya living in Calcutta. Shreya photographs men who harass her (known as “Eve Teasing” in some countries) on her way to and from work.

There are certain structural privileges that work in the favour of the perpetrators of street sexual harassment, whether the non interference of spectators, or active participation of friends, but most of all, the assurance and continual affirmation of their own gender-based privileges by sociocultural norms. With my camera I thought I could strategically intervene within some of these processes that work against me.

street harassers, calcutta

via The Banjari Manifesto

I’d like to arm women like Shreya with hidden video cameras so they can film the actual harassment they experience and show it to the world. I’d like to see Stop Telling Women to Smile posters go up in every city in the world where women deal with street harassment. I’d like to see the term “Eve Teasing” (which can include assault) abolished and the crime of street harassment and assault taken seriously worldwide. And I’d love it if you would all work with me to make all this positive change happen.


Related:

My Streets, My Body: How street harassment impacts my weightloss, my eating habits, my body
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.